Has anyone ever been disowned faster than Juan Thompson? A former reporter for the website The Intercept, he allegedly “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.”
That’s the admission of Betsy Reed, editor of the website, posting Tuesday. Reed said Thompson laced stories with unverifiable quotes, and “went to great lengths to deceive his editors, creating an email account to impersonate a source and lying about his reporting methods.”
The Intercept, whose focus is on intelligence gathering and national security, has kept the tainted stories online. One of them, a look into the background of Dylann Roof, accused of killing nine people at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, is now marked “Retracted.” The Intercept says there’s no evidence that a source identified by Thompson as Roof’s cousin Scott Roof exists.
Four other stories are now marked “Corrected.”
Until hours ago, stories by Thompson for the Intercept were topped by an intro that called him a “former reporter with a focus on crime, punishment, the police state, and race. Prior to joining the Intercept, he worked as a production assistant and reporter at Chicago’s NPR member station WBEZ and as a reporter for DNAinfo Chicago.”
Both news outlets were quick to take exception to that.
“Can’t say we didn’t see this coming . . . ” tweeted DNAinfo’s Jen Sabella. “He interned for us a few summers ago — VERY briefly.”
Can't say we didn't see this coming… https://t.co/o8mOpEzhpO
— Jen Sabella (@jensabella) February 2, 2016
The Intercept took down the intro.
Meanwhile, Gawker was trying to keep track of the various versions of Thompson’s side of the story. First to show up was an undated letter that Gawker said Thompson apparently wrote to Reed. It said he’d been enervated and distracted by testicular cancer, and furthermore was merely a “cub reporter” and required supervision he didn’t get—”something with which The Intercept continues to struggle as everyone in this business knows.”
And he allowed that he invited people he was interviewing to hide behind false names because often it was the only way to get them to talk: “They’re poor black people who didn’t want their names in the public given the situations and that was the only was of convincing them otherwise. That also explains why some of them didn’t want to talk with your company’s research team or denied the events.”
The letter went on, “I’m not in NY and have been sick and bed-ridden from radiation so of course I can’t return that laptop—that I also broke by the way. But if your company wishes to withhold my separation pay, which I was banking on for my treatment, go right ahead.”
Gawker’s frequently updated story went on to report three other, slightly different versions of this letter to Reed. Apparently, they were all passed along to different reporters by Thompson himself, who kept tweaking his language. “It’s the same I’m editing as I think of more things,” Gawker’s Keenan Trotter said Thompson explained to him in an e-mail.