In an article for the Intercept, writer Robert Mackey noted he had “been denounced by @wikileaks…for pointing to a factual error in one of the group’s tweets about a DNC email.”
But it was entirely unclear what Wikileak’s “factual error” was. So being a curious reader I tweeted Mackey asking him what he was referring to.
In a (now deleted) tweet he told me there was a link to another story in his article that mentioned the “factual error”. That was not true. There was no such link in the article.
I replied asking him to share what he was referring to when he wrote that Wikileaks twitter had “denounced him”.
He responded with a link to a previous article of his that referenced what I was looking for.
Then he immediately blocked me.
I saw he had updated the article with a new hyperlink (that I had pointed out was missing). But rather than thank me for the help, he blocked me. I think it’s unethical for a journalist to block a reader for simply requesting sources, so I tweeted about it to the editors at the Intercept.
He briefly unblocked me only to accuse me of “exacerbating tensions” between him and Wikileaks by “demanding” to know what he referred to in his article.
It’s abundantly clear in my tweets that I didn’t “demand” anything (I asked for sources); I did not retweet his exchange with Wikileaks; and I was completely unaware of any tensions between him and Wikileaks — at least until Julian Assange joined the conversation.
So what was the Wikileaks tweet Mackey deemed a “factual error”?
Wikileaks tweeted, “DNCLeak: Trump may be right about Ted Cruz’s father & JFK kill — Comms head Luis Miranda” and linked to the leaked DNC email.
In the email, Luis Miranda (DNC Comm Director) notes “Cruz’s father was in fact a militant” and that “it would not be unusual for him to be caught up in the ugly web of Cuban militants with questionable histories”. While the email does not specifically mention a “JFK kill”, the theory that Cuban exiles played a role in the JFK kill is a well known aspect of their “questionable histories”.
Wikileaks’s tweet was not a “factual error”. It’s just a sensational headline. Now there’s nothing wrong with Mackey calling out a sensational tweet as misleading. But in this case, writing that Wikileaks was tweeting a “factual error” was itself misleading. Wikileaks exhibited journalistic integrity by including a direct link to their source, making it easy for readers to fact check. Robert Mackey at the Intercept did not.
Regardless, it’s always good to read beyond the headlines (including @wikileaks) and it’s always good to question sources (including the Intercept.)
11/23/17 Article has been edited to add a new conclusion. 11/22/17 updated to include embed and analyses of tweet Mackey deemed a “factual error”. 11/25/17 edited for clarity.