- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Independent Journal Review (IJR) has reportedly suspended Chief Content Officer Benny Johnson and two editors for their role in publishing a conspiracy theory about former President Obama.

Alex Skatell, the conservative website’s founder, suspended Mr. Johnson, viral editor Kyle Becker and content editor Becca Lower for publishing the report last week that suggested Mr. Obama may have influenced a Hawaii judge’s ruling blocking President Trump’s second travel ban, Business Insider reported.

IJR later retracted the story, saying in an editor’s note that it didn’t meet the outlet’s editorial standards. 

A person familiar with the matter told Business Insider that Mr. Johnson had been warned earlier that the story was an unfounded conspiracy theory, but he assigned it to Mr. Becker anyway.

Mr. Skatell said the three staffers would remain suspended while an investigation is underway.

“We are committed to an editorial team that includes voices, perspectives and geographies that span the country but equally committed to quality standards in our newsroom,” he told Business Insider. “As we’ve grown we’ve sought to improve on that front and last month we launched our six person editorial operations team along with enforcement and review for all editorial content. Last week we got it wrong and ultimately deserve all the criticism if we want to be taken seriously.

“As a result of last week’s failure Kyle Becker has been suspended indefinitely as well as his supervisor and Chief Content Officer Benny Johnson and the content editor approving the post Becca Lower,” he said. “We are reviewing all the details to determine if further action is necessary, this ultimately falls on me to get right and we have to do better in the future.”

Mr. Johnson has previously worked for BuzzFeed, where he was fired from in 2014 after editors accused him of plagiarism.

He was again accused of plagiarism by IJR colleagues in 2015, Business Insider reported.

• Jessica Chasmar can be reached at jchasmar@washingtontimes.com.

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