Former Boss Comes to the Defense of Embattled BuzzFeed Reporter

Before Tessa Stuart joined BuzzFeed, she worked at LA Weekly. Today, that publication’s editor-in-chief Sarah Fenske has done what very few elsewhere in the media have dared to up to this point: firmly take Stuart’s side.

The crux of Fenske’s argument is that she feels there’s no way, under any circumstances (logged by the CPB or not logged), that Palestinian filmmaker Emad Burnat could have been detained for the amount of time Michael Moore first claimed (1.5 hours). From her op ed:

The Atlantic revealed that Burnat’s plane arrived at LAX at 4:59 p.m. , fourteen minutes behind schedule. Even if the plane was blessed with a relatively quick deboarding, it’s hard to imagine that Burnat could have possibly first encountered federal agents any earlier than 5:20 p.m.

Weirdly, The Atlantic lets Moore suggest otherwise: “In the half-hour between Burnat’s arrival and the first log entry cited in BuzzFeed’s post, Moore says Burnat and his family had already been taken to two other holding areas.” Oh really? So the plane landed at 4:59, and somehow magically everyone was ushered into various holding areas within just a few minutes, only to be detained and shuffled to room after room in just 29 minutes?

A statement from Burnat posted on Moore’s site challenges these assumptions somewhat; the filmmaker has also essentially suggested that everyone is wrongly focusing too much on the issue of how many minutes his detainment spanned.

But time is of the essence on a whole other front in this case. It’s impossible to say whether Moore would have been kinder if he had been given a fuller opportunity to speak to Stuart before the article was published. But it may be wise for all journalists to remember the risks inherent in going to print without having heard back in any way (no comment, denial, etc.) from the person central to their allegations. Read Fenske’s full take here.

Previously on FishbowlLA:
Michael Moore Brands BuzzFeed Report a Lie