×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

BuzzFeed Wins Legal Battle Against the ‘King’ of Fake News

BuzzFeed won a long-running legal battle on Wednesday against Michael Leidig, whom the news site had described in a 2015 story as the “King of Bullsh– News.”

A federal judge on Wednesday dismissed Leidig’s $11 million libel suit, finding that he had failed to show that anything in the article was false.

The story chronicled how Leidig’s Central European News agency distributed dubious stories from abroad in numerous Western publications. The story alleged that CEN embellished stories with fabricated quotes, or concocted fake stories based on genuine news photos. Those stories appeared on sites including the Daily Mail, the New York Post, the New York Daily News, and even BuzzFeed itself.

Leidig contended that his company did not fabricate stories, and filed suit in 2016. On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero dismissed the suit, finding that Leidig had failed to produce any evidence that the article was false. Instead, Leidig issued blanket denials without substantiating any of its own articles, the judge found.

“In the face of repeated instances where BuzzFeed points to specific evidence supporting the truth of the Article, Plaintiffs’ sole rejoinder is that neither Leidig nor any CEN employee admitted to knowingly publishing ‘a fake news story’ or to ‘add[ing] phony quotations to a story,'” the judge wrote. “Apart from these statements, Plaintiffs provide no evidence that BuzzFeed’s eight statements about the CEN stories are false. As such, no jury could find BuzzFeed’s statements to be false.”

The BuzzFeed article noted several dubious stories that had been syndicated by CEN, including one about Chinese teenagers who took cabbages for walks to alleviate their loneliness. The story was based on an art show in which Chinese students took cabbages for walks, and embellished with quotes purportedly from a Chinese psychiatrist. BuzzFeed implied that the quotes were made up, which Leidig disputed.

However, in his deposition, Leidig was unable to vouch for the quotes, saying they came from an employee who had not started to work for CEN when the story was published. The CEN employee likewise could not substantiate the quotes, and in fact confirmed that BuzzFeed’s version of events was accurate.

“Other than Leidig’s self-serving and discredited testimony, which is plainly insufficient to support a motion for summary judgment, Plaintiffs offer no evidence regarding the Cabbage Story’s veracity,” the judge wrote. “Even CEN’s employees could not trace or verify any relevant quotes or sources.”

The ruling made similar findings on seven other contested claims, including a story about a tapeworm and a pink kitten.

“From the outset of this baseless lawsuit, BuzzFeed has stood firmly behind the accuracy of its reporting and cooperated with the court at every step of the process,” said BuzzFeed spokesman Matt Mittenthal, in a statement. “Today Judge Marrero vindicated that reporting, finding no falsehoods in the article cited by the plaintiffs, whom he describes as ‘self-serving and discredited.’ The judge’s decision represents a hard-earned victory for thorough, truthful journalism.”

Popular on Variety

More Biz

  • Sony Music Promotes Mark Cavell and

    Sony Music Promotes Mark Cavell and Per Hauber to Lead Masterworks, Classical Labels

    Sony Music Entertainment today announced the promotions of Mark Cavell and Per Hauber to lead the Company’s Classical, Jazz, Broadway and non-traditional contemporary music business. Based in New York, Cavell will become President of Sony Masterworks and Hauber will become President of Sony Classical, based in Berlin. They will report to Sony Music chairman Rob Stringer and [...]

  • Department of Justice

    United States Soldier Charged After Planning to Bomb Major News Network

    The Department of Justice has charged a United States Army soldier who allegedly plotted to bomb a major U.S. news network, distributed information online on bomb-making, planned to join a violent far-right paramilitary group in Ukraine and insinuated an assassination attempt on Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke. Jarrett William Smith, a 24-year-old U.S. infantry solider [...]

  • Geox Campaign Siffat Haider

    Finding Love and Serenity Through Food

    With a near-obsessive and rapidly growing family of 61,000 followers on Instagram, Toronto-based lifestyle influencer/blogger Siffat Haider travels the planet — and the city — sharing all things beautiful and delicious in a curated visual diary, @icingandglitter. Haider has been featured on numerous blogs, news outlets and commercial sites and is founder/host of the popular [...]

  • Led-Zeppelin-1971

    'Stairway to Heaven' Copyright Case Argued at 9th Circuit

    The attorney who claims that Led Zeppelin ripped off the acoustic guitar opening in “Stairway to Heaven” faced tough questioning on Monday before an 11-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Francis Malofiy argued the case on behalf Michael Skidmore, a journalist who represents the estate of the late Spirit frontman Randy Wolfe. [...]

  • Latin Recording Academy Names Manuel Abud

    Latin Recording Academy Names Manuel Abud COO

    As it celebrates its 20th anniversary, the Latin Recording Academy today announced several key changes to its leadership team. Former Azteca America president/CEO Manuel Abud has been named the organization’s chief operating officer, while 19-year Latin Grammy vet Luis Dousdebes takes on the new position of Chief Awards, Membership and Preservation Officer. Also, Aida Scorza, who has worked [...]

  • 'OpenAP' CEO David Levy Sees New

    'OpenAP' CEO David Levy Charts New Course

    A consortium built by some of the nation’s biggest media outlets to win new kinds of advertising is quickly changing its course. Founded in 2017 by Viacom, 21st Century Fox and Time Warner, OpenAP was initially designed to help marketers figure out ways to buy advertising based on reaching segments of audience that aren’t defined [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content