Ex-BuzzFeed Editor Fired For Plagiarism Gets Second Chance At Conservative National Review

A little more than a month after he lost his job at BuzzFeed for widespread plagiarism, Benny Johnson has landed on his feet at National Review.

Politico’s Mike Allen reported Saturday that Johnson will begin his work as social media director at the conservative outlet next week.

The role and the venue both make sense for Johnson.

As the viral politics editor at BuzzFeed, Johnson was tasked with producing clicky posts on topics such as George H.W. Bush’s sock preferences and John McCain’s “adorable” first mention of Twitter on the Senate floor.

Before joining the viral media giant in late-2012, Johnson worked in conservative media, writing for the likes of The Blaze and Breitbart.

His work at those outlets and at BuzzFeed made Johnson a frequent target of mockery from many of his peers in the online journalism community. The criticism came to a head in July, when a pair of pseudonymous Twitter users known as @blippoblappo and @crushingbort detailed multiple instances of plagiarism in Johnson’s posts on BuzzFeed.

In his initial response to the plagiarism allegations, BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith offered now-infamous praise of Johnson.

“Benny Johnson is one of the web’s deeply original writers, as is clear from his body of work,” Smith told Gawker.

But when the Twitter sleuths exposed even more examples of Johnson lifting text without attribution, Smith was forced to take action. After an internal review spotted more than 40 instances of plagiarism in his work, Johnson was fired by BuzzFeed.

Johnson even copied from an article on National Review, but his new boss apparently didn’t hold that against him.

National Review editor Rich Lowry acknowledged that Johnson “made a terrible mistake,” but said he deserved a second chance.

“He’s a talented journalist, with obviously a lot to contribute,” Lowry told Politico. “He knows he’s joining a storied institution at NR, and we look forward to his helping us carry on our mission across all platforms.”

According to Allen, Johnson “will start by giving advice and running NR’s Twitter and Facebook accounts” and will eventually “do more creative work of his own.”

After taking an extended hiatus from Twitter following his firing, Johnson returned to the social media platform on Saturday to celebrate his new position.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tom Kludt is a reporter for Talking Points Memo based in New York City, covering media and national affairs. Originally from South Dakota, Tom joined TPM as an intern in late-2011 and became a staff member during the 2012 election. He can be reached at tom@talkingpointsmemo.com.
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