Reporter Fabricated Quotes, Invented Sources at The Intercept

J.K. Trotter, Gawker, February 2, 2016

The Intercept disclosed today that a former reporter for the national-security focused website fabricated quotes and invented sources for a number of stories published last year. According to a post published on Tuesday afternoon by editor-in-chief Betsy Reed, that reporter, Juan Thompson, went so far as to register fake email addresses, including one in Reed’s own name, to deceive his editors about the extent of his fabrications:

An investigation into Thompson’s reporting turned up three instances in which quotes were attributed to people who said they had not been interviewed. In other instances, quotes were attributed to individuals we could not reach, who could not remember speaking with him, or whose identities could not be confirmed. In his reporting Thompson also used quotes that we cannot verify from unnamed people whom he claimed to have encountered at public events. Thompson went to great lengths to deceive his editors, creating an email account to impersonate a source and lying about his reporting methods.

Shortly before Reed’s post, The Intercept prepended lengthy editor’s notes to five of Thompson’s prior articles. Four of the notes amount to severe corrections; the fifth, attached to an article containing quotes attributed to a cousin of the white supremacist Dylann Roof, indicates a total retraction: “After speaking with two members of Dylann Roof’s family, The Intercept can no longer stand by the premise of this story. Both individuals said that they do not know of a cousin named Scott Roof.”

In the now-retracted article, Thompson had claimed that “Scott Roof” had speculated during a phone conversation that Dylann Roof may been driven to murder nine black churchgoers at a Charleston, South Carolina church because “he kind of went over the edge when a girl he liked starting dating a black guy two years back.” Thompson’s report was picked up by dozens of other news outlets.

{snip} Prior to The Intercept, Thompson had reported in Chicago for DNAInfo and the local NPR affiliate, WBEZ.

Juan Thompson

Juan Thompson

Based on his Twitter account, Thompson appears to be invested in the outcomes of other journalism controversies. In several tweets from last year, for example, he argued that former BuzzFeed editor Benny Johnson, who was fired for committing widespread plagiarism in the summer of 2014, would not have been been able to bounce back so quickly (to editor positions at National Review and the Independent Journal Review) if he were not white:

{snip}

[Editor’s Note: The original article has Juan Thompson’s lengthy reply to the accusations.]

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