Digital news magazine The Intercept revealed on 2 February it had discovered that one of its reporters, Juan Thompson, had fabricated quotes and made up sources. According to editor Betsy Reed, an investigation into Thompson's reporting also revealed he made up fake emails to impersonate sources including his editor.
"Thompson went to great lengths to deceive his editors, creating an email account to impersonate a source and lying about his reporting methods," Reed wrote in the note to readers. The news organisation discovered that the former reporter had attributed quotes to individuals who claimed to have never been interviewed, who could not remember speaking to him or whose identity could not be identified.
Reed apologised to the subjects of the stories, the falsely quoted individuals and to the magazine's readers. "We are contacting news outlets that picked up corrected stories to alert them to the problems," the editor added.
According to Re/code, corrections have been made to four articles focused on Black Lives Matter activists, police brutality and the city of St Louis. In a story about Charleston shooter Dylann Roof, Thompson appeared to have falsified both a source and quotes alleging Roof was spurned by a romantic partner for a black man.
In an email from Thompson to Reed, verified by Re/code, the reporter acknowledged he had made mistakes. Thompson lay the blame on being a "cub reporter," poor editing by The Intercept and added he did not want to expose the identities of "poor black people who didn't want their names in the public."
He wrote that after he looked over notes sent from editors, he had a habit of writing drafts, placing the names of people he wanted quotes from and then getting those quotes. "Was it sloppy? Yes? But I'm a cub reporter and expected a sustained and competent editor to guide me, something which I never had at your company and something with which The Intercept continues to struggle as everyone in this business knows," he claimed.
Thompson also provided to Re/code and Gawker an email that Reed claims she did not receive, which included a paragraph alleging that the editors referred to him as "a stray dog" and of unfair pay. Although still active on Twitter until the Iowa Caucus on 1 February, Thompson has not commented on the incident.