The Washington Post executive editor Sally Buzbee defended the paper’s reporters as “completely ethical” who penned two now-corrected articles that inaccurately identified a key source of the discredited anti-Trump Steele dossier
Post reporters Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger co-authored two stories, published in March 2017 and February 2019, that were changed last week when Buzbee said she could no longer stand by their accuracy. The post added editor’s notes, amended headlines, removed sections identifying Sergei Millian as the source and deleted an accompanying video summarizing the articles.
Buzbee said they came forward immediately once they realized their reporting appeared to be incorrect.
The Post’s correction came after Special Counsel John Durham’s investigation into the Trump-Russia probe further discredited the dossier. Durham indicted Russian national Igor Danchenko, who is believed to be the sub-source for Steele, who compiled the dossier. He pleaded not guilty Wednesday to making false statements about the source of information that he provided to Steele.
When announcing the corrections, the Post’s in-house media reporter Paul Farhi wrote the indictment suggests “Danchenko may have gotten his information about the hotel encounter not from Millian but from a Democratic Party operative with long-standing ties to Hillary Clinton,” noting Clinton ally Charles Dolan, Jr. could be the unnamed operative.
Buzbee attempted to explain the process during an appearance on the New York Times’ “Sway” podcast in an episode published on Thursday.
“We decided to act and to remove some material from a story based on — there was new information that came out [on] this earlier in November indictment from the Durham investigation,” Buzbee said.
“Then we also went back and we tried, based on that new information, to talk to the people that had been the sources for that original story and do additional reporting to see if those stories were still OK. And one of the two sources of the information said that what had come out in the indictment and other new information had made them have grave doubts about what they had told us in 2017. So based on that, we felt we could no longer stand by the information in that story,” Buzbee continued. “And so, we decided that the right thing to do was to remove it.”
As for Helderman and Hamburger, the paper’s top editor appeared to stand by them.
“What happened in this case was that the reporters involved, the minute that this indictment came out, pretty much came to us immediately. I think we all kind of probably reached a conclusion at the same point. And we decided that we needed to do further reporting. The reporters were completely ethical. They came forward. They said, ‘Hey, this indictment came down. We need to go back and look at that story,’” Buzbee said without mentioning Helderman and Hamburger by name.
“So we did reporting and then we essentially sat around in a room, and we talked it through. What was the most transparent and what was the most ethical thing for us to do? And obviously, I make the decision, but it was a really collaborative and thoughtful exercise to go through,” Buzbee said. “And we made the decision together to do what I hope is the right thing.”
Helderman and Hamburger are both Pulitzer Prize-winning reporters who remain at the paper. They co-wrote a piece headlined, “FBI once planned to pay former British spy who authored controversial Trump dossier,” that was part of the paper’s 2018 Pulitzer-winning coverage of potential Russian interference, although it is not one of the reports that has been changed as the dossier’s credibility crumbled.
Helderman retweeted Farhi’s report headlined, “The Washington Post corrects, removes parts of two stories regarding the Steele dossier,” but declined comment when reached by Fox News Digital.
Hamburger also took to social media to share Farhi’s piece explaining the corrections, and again to share Post fact-checker’s explainer. He referred Fox News Digital to the Post’s media relations department when asked for comment. The Post did not immediately respond.
The Post has added editor’s notes to more than a dozen stories since Danchenko was indicted.
Fox News’ Joseph A. Wulfsohn contributed to this report.