Over the past two days, BuzzFeed has turned the story of a Palestinian filmmaker detained by LAX customs officials on his way to the Oscars into something much more petty: a campaign to distract readers from their own shoddy reporting.
Last night, the Atlantic Wire published an article identifying several errors and gaps in two BuzzFeed articles which had claimed Michael Moore's account of the LAX incident on Twitter — in which Emad Burnat, his hijab-wearing wife, and 8-year-old child were stopped by customs — was a "publicity stunt." We based our report on on-the-record statements from Burnat and Moore. Tessa Stuart, the BuzzFeed reporter on the story, still has no one speaking with her on the record to contest Moore and Burnat's version of events. The best outside corroboration of their account in fact comes from BuzzFeed — a log book showing Burnat was detained by custom officials. But despite having her anonymous sources being proven wrong on several factual details, BuzzFeed is still standing by these anonymous sources' sweeping generalizations as credible fact.
And despite this one-sided scoop fizzling, BuzzFeeders, including editor-in-chief Ben Smith, spent the afternoon high-fiving each other on Twitter, still pushing the idea that they caught Michael Moore in a lie. Smith tweeted out a link to a lengthy defense of Stuart's work written by Stuart's friend and former editor (a disclsosure that comes in the blog post's 12th paragraph) titled, "Michael Moore Caught Exaggerating LAX Oscars Detainment -- What Else Is New?" BuzzFeed's political reporter Andrew Kaczynski added "Surprise surprise," and their West Coast correspondent Kate Aurthur tweeted, "How BIZARRE that the @laweekly has a problem with Michael Moore lying! I wish other media outlets did."