- A Huffington Post reporter was accused of misreporting an FBI statement on the release of a memo authored by Rep. Devin Nunes.
- A number of influential Twitter users pressed the reporter to provide information about his sources for the statement, even though many other news outlets had also published the statement.
- Eventually, the FBI put the statement up on their website, ending the debate.
Upon reports that the FBI had issued a statement criticizing the accuracy of a memo authored by House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes, Huffington Post reporter Ryan Reilly found himself under fire on Twitter from users who accused him of either mischaracterizing the statement or making it up entirely.
In its statement, the FBI had criticized the lack of crucial details in Nunes’s memo, which alleges misconduct by the FBI and Department of Justice (DOJ) with regard to surveilling former members of President Donald Trump’s campaign team after he took office.
“With regard to the House Intelligence Committee’s memorandum, the FBI was provided a limited opportunity to review this memo the day before the committee voted to release it,” the statement said. “As expressed during our initial review, we have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”
A Twitter account called @TheLastRefuge, which has over 65,000 followers, began tweeting at Reilly and accusing him of violating journalistic ethics.
“This is really terrible journalistic ethics. Worst ever seen. @ryanreilly is pushing a claim the FBI has released an official statement,” the account tweeted. “They haven’t. This claim is akin to taking an opinion from a McDonalds worker and selling it as the official Corporate Release. #Fake News.”
HuffPost's Ryan Reilly is currently being attacked/ratio'd by Trump supporters who seriously think he just made up the FBI statement on the Nunes memo pic.twitter.com/hw8fYtF48t
— Alex Griswold (@HashtagGriswold) January 31, 2018
Other Twitter users piled on to the account’s assertion, claiming that because the FBI had not posted an official statement on their website, Reilly’s reporting could not be accurate.
But Reilly, along with numerous other publications like CNN and Fox News, all received the same statement from the FBI via email.
“The FBI issued an official statement that is attributable to the bureau. It was emailed to reporters by the FBI’s National Press Office,” Reilly tweeted.
Various users including @TheLastRefuge demanded to know the name of the individual who sent them the statement.
“By who?” the user asked. “This is not a difficult question. The organization itself is being accused of massive corruption. As such, all within the organization have a vested interest in shaping coverage of investigation therein. Not difficult to see. So again, WHO is making this claim?”
Often when giving official statements, government agencies, departments, and bureaus have a spokesperson speak for the entire organization, and request the body as a whole be quoted.
After hundreds of tweets though, the FBI put up a link to the statement on FBI.gov. Reilly wasted no time clearing the air.
“ATTENTION TWITTER: THE FBI STATEMENT ON THE NUNES MEMO IS NOW ON http://FBI.GOV ,” he wrote. “That was fun, though. Good job everyone.”