BuzzFeed fired viral politics editor Benny Johnson after an investigation revealed “41 instances of sentences or phrases copied word for word from other sites“, BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith wrote in a note to readers Friday night.
“Benny is a friend, colleague and, at his best, a creative force, but we had no choice other than letting him go,” Smith wrote.
BuzzFeed began combing through 500 of Johnson’s posts after Twitter users @blippoblappo and @crushingbort accused Johnson of plagiarism Thursday, providing links to examples of writing that were similar to Johnson’s. At first, Smith stood by Johnson, telling Gawker’s J.K. Trotter that he was “one of the web’s deeply original writers.”
On Friday, after @blippoblappo and @crushingbort posted further examples of Johnson’s lifting work from other places, Smith told Poynter that BuzzFeed was reviewing Johnson’s work.
In his note to readers, Smith wrote that the plagiarism constituted “an act of disrespect to readers” and that Johnson’s editors were “deeply embarrassed and sorry” for misleading BuzzFeed’s audience.