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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A reckoning is hitting news organizations for years-old coverage of the 2017 Steele dossier, after the document's primary source was charged with lying to the FBI.

Why it matters: It's one of the most egregious journalistic errors in modern history, and the media's response to its own mistakes has so far been tepid.

Outsized coverage of the unvetted document drove a media frenzy at the start of Donald Trump's presidency that helped drive a narrative of collusion between former President Trump and Russia. 

  • It also helped drive an even bigger wedge between former President Trump and the press at the very beginning of his presidency.

Driving the news: In wake of the key source's arrest and further reporting on the situation, The Washington Post on Friday corrected and removed large portions of two articles.

  • To The Post's credit, its media critic, Erik Wemple, has written at length about the mistakes made by The Post and other media outlets in their coverage of the dossier.

BuzzFeed News, which made waves in 2017 by publishing the entire dossier, says it has no plans to take the document down. It's still online, accompanied by a note that says “The allegations are unverified, and the report contains errors.”

  • Ben Smith, who was BuzzFeed's editor-in-chief at the time and is now a media columnist at The New York Times, told Axios, “My view on the logic of publishing hasn't changed."
  • BuzzFeed defended the decision in a 2018 lawsuit by arguing that because the FBI opened an investigation into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia, the dossier itself was newsworthy, whatever the merits of its contents turned out to be. It won that case.

Other outlets that gave the document outsized coverage have so far been less forthcoming.

  • CNN and MSNBC did not respond to requests for comment about whether they planned to revisit or correct any of their coverage around the dossier
  • Mother Jones Washington bureau chief David Corn began reporting about the dossier prior to the 2016 election. Asked by Wemple whether he planned to correct the record, Corn said," My priority has been to deal with the much larger topic of Russia’s undisputed attack and Trump’s undisputed collaboration with Moscow’s cover-up."
  • Corn did not respond to a request to speak on the record with Axios.
  • The Wall Street Journal told Axios, "We’re aware of the serious questions raised by the allegations and continue to report and to follow the investigation closely."
  • Axios was among the outlets that did not publish the dossier or original reporting based on its contents.

What to watch: The Steele screwup will undoubtedly cause an even bigger rift in trust between Democrats and Republicans.

Go deeper

Trump's PAC has spent $1.4 million in Facebook, Google ads for potential campaign

Photo: Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Former President Trump's political action committee, Save America, has spent more than $1.4 million on Facebook and Google ads since March, FWIW reports.

Driving the news: While Trump was banned from posting on various social media platforms, he has managed to work around this as he prepares for the 2024 presidential elections, per the Washington Post.

Updated 1 hour ago - World

Myanmar's deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi sentenced to 4 years in prison

An anti-coup protest in Yangon, Myanmar.Photo: Hkun Lat/Getty Images

A Myanmar court sentenced the country's ousted leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, on Monday to four years in prison on charges of "inciting public unrest" and breaking COVID-19 protocols, per the New York Times.

Why it matters: It's the first of several verdicts that could result in the 76-year-old Nobel laureate being imprisoned for the rest of her life. The 11 charges she faces have been widely criticised as politically motivated.

4 hours ago - World

Pope Francis denounces European governments' migrant response

Pope Francis adresses refugees at the Reception and Identification Centre (RIC) in Mytilene on the island of Lesbos on Sunday. Photo: Louisa Gouliamaki/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Pope Francis criticized European countries' response to migrants and asylum seekers during his visit to a refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos Sunday.

Why it matters: The pope said "migration is a humanitarian crisis that concerns everyone," but little had changed in the global response to displaced peoples since his first visit to Lesbos five years ago, per a transcript of his remarks. "Human lives, real people, are at stake. ... let us stop this shipwreck of civilization!"