On Thursday, BuzzFeed’s Twitter-based morning show posed what they likely thought was they clearly viewed as a provocative, open-ended question: Should we have right-wing smear artist Mike Cernovich on our show #AM2DM?
The internet at large responded with a resounding hell no, but several BuzzFeed employees took it a step further, sticking their necks out to seriously challenge the inane logic which would lead anyone to even consider booking Cernovich on the show.
Rachel Wilkerson Miller, BuzzFeed’s senior lifestyle editor, responded:
Which seemed to catch top editor Ben Smith’s attention:
The exchange escalated from there:
Smith replied by sharing a link to BuzzFeed reporter Charlie Warzel’s story about Cernovich’s appearance on 60 Minutes, where the conspiracy theorist ran circles around veteran correspondent Scott Pelley by arguing up and down that the fake news he’s made his name peddling is actually real news, a tactic Pelley wasn’t equipped to handle.
Smith somewhat demurred—and expressed a clear desire to stop airing any of the site’s dirty laundry in a public forum—but Miller’s final response alluded to earlier conversations around a Roger Stone piece and another about the “Shitty Media Men” list.
Miller was referencing an October piece, written by a conservative media strategist and published under the headline “People May Hate Roger Stone, But He’s An LGBT Ally,” which was widely derided by staffers.
Another BuzzFeed staffer, Sam Stryker, tweeted that, “To coyly post this question is a slap in the face for a lot of BuzzFeed employees.”
In an email to Splinter, Smith declined to comment further about any conversations with staffers about the possibility of offering Cernovich a substantial platform—BuzzFeed says AM to DM reaches 1 million daily—pointing to his tweets as his remarks on the matter.
Cernovich, for his numerous fatal flaws, is a creature of the new media landscape with an innate understanding of how to manipulate editors and reporters to secure sympathetic coverage, despite spending his waking hours baselessly accusing people of pedophilia.
Smith’s tepid defense of the notion of having Cernovich on BuzzFeed’s morning show also willfully glosses over the vast difference between engaging in a good faith dialogue with people who espouse repugnant beliefs and pretending like you could ever engage a bad faith actor like Cernovich—who’s fresh off getting an MSNBC contributor fired over a years-old tweet that he willfully misread as condoning rape.
It’s also worth noting that BuzzFeed’s recent major scoop—breaking the numerous sexual harassment allegations against Michigan Congressman John Conyers, which eventually resulted in his abrupt, immediate retirement this week—was reported out based on documents first provided to the site by Cernovich. Based on that assist alone, it’s in BuzzFeed’s and, therefore, Smith’s best interest to maintain at least an outwardly neutral relationship with Cernovich, who’s desperate to be viewed as a credible journalist rather than a fringe-y weirdo.
But any effort to take on Cernovich in a serious way won’t happen in an interview—an arena where many have already failed and only spread his views along the way—and it certainly won’t happen on a morning talk show expressly created as a product “for Twitter,” where alt-right figures like Cernovich were born and still thrive.