Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., claimed Thursday without any evidence that the most salacious details contained in an unverified 35-page dossier on President Trump are true.
The unvetted document, which was published in January by BuzzFeed, purports to contain information about the compromising financial and personal activities of Trump allegedly in the possession of Russia. One claim that stuck out among all the other unverified information is that Trump apparently enjoys hiring prostitutes so that they can urinate on things. It's as weird as it sounds, and there is nothing to prove that any of this is true.
On Thursday, however, Waters not only repeated the unverified charges, but she also claimed they were definitely true.
The moment occurred during an MSNBC interview.
"Do you believe anything about that dossier?" reporter Ali Velshi asked after being careful to note the document has not been verified.
Waters responded, "[Lawmakers] should really read it, understand it, analyze it, and determine what's fact, what may not be fact. We already know that the part about the coverage that they have on him with sex actions is supposed to be true. They have said that that's absolutely true."
She provided exactly nothing to back this claim.
When BuzzFeed made the decision in January to publish the dossier without first vetting its content, and in fact acknowledging that some of its details were known to be false, many of us argued that it was irresponsible.
BuzzFeed justified its decision by claiming the document was already in the possession of other journalists and some senior officials.
BuzzFeed also explained that it printed "the full document so that Americans [could] make up their own minds about allegations about the president-elect that have circulated at the highest levels of the US government."
The obvious problem here is that journalists are supposed to deal only with facts, not rumors and suggestions.
Many newsrooms didn't publish the unverified information because it's generally understood that floating unconfirmed charges that could damage a person's reputation, and then telling audiences "here, you figure it out," is not news reporting. It is spreading vicious gossip.
There's another argument that states the nature of modern media has made it acceptable, if necessary, to publish things like the un-vetted dossier. Journalists knew about it, the White House was made aware of it and readers also heard about it. For BuzzFeed, there appeared to be little reason to continue to withhold the document from the public.
Still, if a story is false, it's false. Retractions and corrections only go so far once a narrative is released to the public.
Further, as the Washington Examiner explained at the time, "When you're aware that the source is unreliable, that compounds the sin." If media spread unverified information from dubious sources, and it turns out later the story is bogus, it can be extremely damaging and it can take years to correct the record.
Unless Waters knows something we don't, and she actually has proof of the unverified Trump/prostitutes story, she just proved BuzzFeed's critics right.