The American media hubs of Washington, D.C. and New York City have a tendency to reward some of its worst players, granting positions of prestige to people who’ve made some of the worst decisions in the industry.
Here’s a list of people who have become household names–or close to it–who probably shouldn’t be.
Ben Smith – New York Times
Ben Smith, the BuzzFeed News editor-in-chief, is now the New York Times’ new media columnist. (REALTED: BuzzFeed Ben Has A Tootsie Roll Problem)
Smith is arguably best known for being the first editor in America choosing to publish the now-discredited Steele dossier, which contained numerous accusations against President Donald Trump. While most of the allegations have since been discredited, many argued the dossier being thrust into the public eye played a key role in kicking off two years of Trump-Russia investigations. (RELATED: Mueller Report Directly Contradicts BuzzFeed Story)
The Times acknowledged this, though only at the very end of its article announcing Smith’s hiring:
But in January 2017, Mr. Smith had to defend BuzzFeed News after he was the first editor to publish an unverified dossier containing salacious reports about President Trump compiled by Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer, during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Mr. Smith argued that it was worthy of release in part because its contents had been shared with Mr. Trump and others “at the highest levels of the U.S. government.” Providing that level of transparency, he argued, was “how we see the job of reporters in 2017.”
Many of the dossier’s more lurid claims proved false or unprovable.
Smith arrives at NYT to replace Jim Rutenberg, who held the position since 2015. Smith’s more authentic predecessor, however is the legendary columnist David Carr, who died suddenly in the Times newsroom in 2015.
“Ben not only understands the seismic changes remaking media, he has lived them — and in some cases, led them,” NYT’s editors in their explanation of his hiring, with one calling him “a relentless innovator who helped change the shape of modern journalism.”
Don Lemon – CNN
CNN Host Don Lemon is no stranger to criticism, having most recently faced a deluge of backlash after doubling over with laughter when one of his guests – former Republican strategist Rick Wilson – described Trump supporters as knuckle-draggers with Southern accents.
But this is only the most recent incident of the past several years, which has seen Lemon buried in attacks for calling “white men” the most dangerous terrorist threat in the U.S., and describing a live-streamed, hours-long, racially-motivated attack on a mentally ill man “not evil.”
Lemon, who is openly gay, was also dragged down in a #MeToo movement controversy when New York man Dustin Hice alleged the host has sexually assaulted him at a bar in the Hamptons.
“He put his hands down his pants, inside his board shorts, grabbed his [genitals], and then came out with two fingers and, like, clipped Dustin [Hice]’s nose up and down with two fingers asking ‘do you like p—- or d—?’” George Gounelas, who witnessed the incident, told Fox News.
“The place was packed. I’m sure other people saw. It was a known thing in the Hamptons, not like this quiet thing. Everybody knew Dustin and what happened to him,” Gounelas said. “Every time we went out, every bartender offered him a Lemon drop shot, making fun of him. He got some sh-t for it.”
Nevertheless, Lemon kept his position.
Felicia Sonmez – Washington Post
Felicia Sonmez nearly lost her job this week after a series of crass tweets bringing up NBA legend Kobe Bryant’s 2003 rape allegations less than 12 hours after died with one of his daughters in a helicopter crash.
Sonmez first came into the public eye after making a sexual misconduct allegation against another Beijing-based colleague. The paper then forced the man to resign, but her allegation later came under heavy scrutiny.
You say,”Felicia is a survivor of assault who bravely came forward with her story 2 years ago.”How do you explain glaring inconsistencies in Felicia’s story shown here: https://t.co/NcN6zfmdU4 When Atlantic reporters criticized Felicia,she tried to get them fired. Your thoughts? https://t.co/W4dJBgaIVR
— Christina Sommers ???? (@CHSommers) January 28, 2020
Despite the recent Bryant incident, the Washington Post reinstated her after a brief suspension.
Brian Stelter – CNN
Reliable Sources Host Brian Stelter has long been a favorite target for conservatives critical of the media, often using his show to make lengthy speeches about the dangers Trump’s presidency poses to the free press.
Stelter was widely accused of hypocrisy on the issue in the August 2018, however, when he allowed New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to come on his show and criticize Fox News and the New York Post. (RELATED: CNN’s Media Firefighter Brian Stelter Turns His Back On ABC’s Esptein Cover-Up)
De Blasio criticized the Post and Fox News in much the same way Trump does CNN. Earlier on the day of the interview, de Blasio had a Post reporter removed from an event, something the Trump administration has been uniformly criticized for even by more friendly outlets like Fox. Nevertheless, Stelter barely pushed back at all against de Blasio’s criticism, with some arguing Stelter just enjoyed seeing a politician go after Fox News.
You gave him an unchallenged platform. All because you want to keep the heat on Fox—and the NY Post be damned. I hope it was worth it.
— Seth Mandel (@SethAMandel) August 13, 2018
Is that a joke? “Post staffers say it makes me feel unsafe”?? Are you doing a parody of yourself? You brought him on and let him smear all the work we do and you didn’t fucking challenge him on ANY of it. That’s how you feel about local news, Brian? You ridiculous soulless clown.
— Seth Mandel (@SethAMandel) August 13, 2018