The Independent Journal review (IJR) has reportedly suspended Chief Content Officer Benny Johnson and two other editors for their roles in publishing a story suggesting a connection between former President Barack Obama’s visit to Hawaii and a judge there blocking President Trump’s travel ban – even though it was unfounded.
Publication of the story, which was written by viral editor Kyle Becker, caused a major eruption in the newsroom. The baseless allegations at the very piece led to the resignation of the site’s congressional reporter, Joe Perticone, and a full withdrawal of the story.
The conservative website founder, Alex Skatell, suspended Mr. Johnson, Kyle Becker and content editor Becca Lower for publishing the report last week.
The news organization released the following statement to Business Insider:
“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. 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. 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.”
It’s not the first time Johnson, a meme star, had had ethics problems. In 2014, BuzzFeed fired him as its viral politics editor after the site found “41 instances of sentences of phrases copied word for word from other sites.” He later served briefly as National Review‘s social media director, a site he previously plagiarized from. IJR hired Johnson in February 2015.