The audacious threat came after Sam R. Hall, a reporter for the Clarion-Ledger newspaper, published an article earlier in the day scrutinizing Johnson, who has offered a $100 bounty to his readers for any instances of plagiarism found on BuzzFeed.
Johnson offered the reward after the former BuzzFeed viral politics editor Benny Johnson was fired over allegations of serial plagiarism late last week.
“It’s become increasingly clear that BuzzFeed’s business model is built on theft of content,” Johnson said in a post on his fledgling website, GotNews.com. “From stealing intellectual property of photographers, artists, and moviemakers, to this latest instance, I think it’s important to know the extent of the theft, especially as BuzzFeed plans to be acquired in the near future.”
Hall, who hasn't hidden his annoyance with Johnson's rabble-rousing this month during the Mississippi senate dispute, found the criticism of BuzzFeed pretty rich.
"Now, here's the ironic part," Hall wrote. "The man who has issued a bounty for proof of stealing other people's words is stealing other people's photographs."
He went on to cite "at least three photographs that belong either to The Hattiesburg American or The Associated Press" that were used by Johnson on GotNews without providing proper credit.
"Johnson did not provide any credit for these three photographs. He's also not a member of the Associated Press," Hall wrote.
(Hall later updated the article to indicate that Johnson had provided credit for one of the three photos in question, and appended a note to the end of the article noting the change.)
Johnson responded with a torrent of tweets aimed at Hall. And by late afternoon, Johnson said he had directed his "counsel to begin the process of suing" Hall for defamation.
I've directed my counsel to begin the process of suing @samrhall for defamation today. Will be in touch soon.
— Charles C. Johnson (@ChuckCJohnson) July 29, 2014
Johnson was coy when reached by TPM via email on Tuesday afternoon. He said he's "discussing whether to sue others at the Clarion Ledger as well."
When I have something to announce publicly, I'll announce it publicly.
I am currently talking with counsel and will have something shortly.
I would note for your copy that I'm discussing whether to sue others at the Clarion Ledger as well.
All the best,
Charles C. Johnson
This post has been updated.