Republicans unleashed Sunday on the media “obsession” with tearing down President Trump after last week’s uproar over a since-disputed article in BuzzFeed, while the news outlet continued to stand by its report.
“I think what it says more about is the obsession of many in the national media to attack this president for any reason, for any allegation, for any report in the media,” said Vice President Mike Pence on “Fox News Sunday.”
“It was remarkable for what we saw happening for 24 hours in the media on the basis of the report that appeared in BuzzFeed,” he said. “I just think it’s one of the reasons why people are so frustrated with many in the national media and the constant obsession on this.”
The Thursday night article, citing “two federal law enforcement sources,” alleged that Mr. Trump told his then-lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations on the Trump Tower in Moscow, which prompted a rare statement from special counsel Robert Mueller’s office on Friday evening that bluntly contradicted the report.
“BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the Special Counsel’s Office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s Congressional testimony are not accurate,” said Mueller spokesman Peter Carr in a statement.
Trump personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani called the report “truly fake news and disgusting.”
“The reality is, yesterday BuzzFeed published a story that was scandalous,” Mr. Giuliani said. “It was horrible. They should be sued, under investigation. That’s because you have a hysteria going on in the media that interprets everything against Donald Trump.”
Host Jake Tapper fired back, “There’s no hysteria here, sir.”
Before it was disputed, the story heightened speculation that Mr. Trump could be impeached or forced to resign if the accusations were true. BuzzFeed continued Sunday to stand by its story.
“We have further confirmation that this is right. We’ve been told to stand our ground,” reporter Anthony Cormier told CNN’s “Reliable Sources.” “Our reporting is going to be borne out to be accurate. We’re 100 percent behind it.”
Who told him that? “I’m not going to talk about the sources,” Mr. Cormier said on CNN’s “Reliable Sources,” but added that “the same two sources that we used in that story are standing behind it, as are we.”
Host Brian Stetler asked about discrepancies between versions told by Mr. Cormier, who has said he did not see the government documents described in the story, and co-reporter Jason Leopold, who told MSNBC that “we’ve seen documents.”
“[We] can’t really get into the details there,” Mr. Cormier said, citing the possibility of a leak investigation.
Sen. John Kennedy, Louisiana Republican, said Sunday that “BuzzFeed also has to answer to the fact that Mueller said it’s not true.”
“What happened with respect to the BuzzFeed article — it was embarrassing,” Mr. Kennedy said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “I think the First Amendment was bruised.”
Mr. Kennedy said that he was less concerned about the report, which could have been an honest mistake, than by the reaction.
“Look, reporters make mistakes. We all do,” Mr. Kennedy said, adding, “What surprised me was not that somebody made a mistake, intentional or not, but it was astonishing to me that so many folks didn’t stop and say, ‘Hey, you know, let’s think about this. Could this be true? Who are the sources? Had these particular reporters had problems before?’”
Mr. Leopold has what CNN described as a “checkered past,” including a 2002 plagiarism scandal, although he has made a comeback in recent years. He was a finalist for a 2018 Pulitzer Prize in international reporting.
Mr. Kennedy added, “It was almost as if some of the reporting was not reporting. It was just wishful thinking, and I think that hurts the First Amendment.”
The president has frequently ripped what he describes as the Mueller “witch hunt” over Russia collusion, but Mr. Pence noted that “the president expressed his appreciation to the special counsel for clarifying that that report was inaccurate.”
“This was a week where I think the American people saw the hyperpartisanship among Democrats to assume the worst about this president and many in the national media’s willingness to assume the worst about the president,” Mr. Pence said.