This story has been updated.
In a note to readers published Tuesday, The Intercept’s top editor detailed the “great lengths” to which former staff reporter Juan Thompson went to fabricate quotes and impersonate fake sources in stories published by the site.
Editor Betsy Reed wrote in the note that Thompson used fake email addresses, fabricated quotes and lied about his reporting on stories he wrote as a staff reporter. The note included links to the stories the site corrected or retracted due to the revelations, and Reed wrote that the publication was contacting news outlets that picked up on the corrected stories.
“Thompson went to great lengths to deceive his editors, creating an email account to impersonate a source and lying about his reporting methods,” Reed wrote.
Thompson even created a fake email account in Reed’s name, she wrote.
The investigative journalism site retracted one story by Thompson about Charleston shooter Dylann Roof. Thompson had reported that Roof was spurned by a love interest who chose a black man over him. A note on that post said The Intercept could not confirm with Roof’s family that Scott Roof, the cousin quoted in the story, exists.
Thompson later provided a copy of an undated email exchange with Reed to multiple media outlets, in which he wrote he was out of state undergoing cancer treatment and did not have access to his notes.
Thompson said in the email he “encouraged” some sources to use fake names because “they’re poor black people who didn’t want their names in the public” and quoted Ta-Nehisi Coates.
“Ultimately, the journalism that covers the experiences of poor black folk and the journalism others, such as you and First Look, are used to differs drastically,” he wrote in the email. “This dilemma is the Great Problem with the white media organizations that dominate our media landscape.”
But in a response to Gawker, Reed said the email she received from Thompson today “was not identical” to the published email, and pointed to one paragraph that was not in the original email:
The comments from editors calling me a stray dog; the lower pay; the being told on a trip to DC that I “shouldn’t spend like it’s the first of the month”. I shrugged it all off.
Editor’s note: Juan M. Thompson authored a piece for TPM’s Slice last year. An editor’s note on the status of that piece will be forthcoming.