Betsy Reed, editor of The Intercept:
The Intercept recently discovered a pattern of deception in the
actions of a staff member. The employee, Juan Thompson, was a
staff reporter from November 2014 until last month. Thompson
fabricated several quotes in his stories and created fake email
accounts that he used to impersonate people, one of which was a
Gmail account in my name.
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.
This sort of scandal can sink a publication. Seems like The Intercept is handling this as best they can, by getting out in front of it.
But it gets even stranger: in an email sent to Gawker, Thompson says:
I’ve been undergoing radiation treatment for testicular cancer
and, since I no longer have health insurance, I’ve been feverishly
struggling and figuring out how to pay for my treatment. All of
this, of course, has taken up my time and energy; except for the
few moments I’ve spent searching for some relief.
With regards to verifying the comments, I’m in STL undergoing
treatment, again, and not in NY, thus I lack access to my
notebooks (which I took for most stories) to address these
matters. Moreover, after finally looking over the notes sent to
me, I must say this: I had a habit of writing drafts of stories,
placing the names of ppl I wanted to get quotes from in there, and
then going to fetch the quotes.
Dealing with a serial fabulist is so hard. Does he really have cancer? I hope not, and if he does, I of course wish him well. But what The Intercept is alleging goes far beyond getting the names wrong of sources he quoted — and being ill is no excuse for it.
★ Tuesday, 2 February 2016