A June 2015 report by The Intercept which alleged Dylann Roof was dumped by a girlfriend for a black man years before he killed nine people in a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, was fabricated, the website said Tuesday.
In a post titled "A Note To Readers," Intercept Editor-in-Chief Betsy Reed wrote that staff had "recently discovered a pattern of deceptions in the actions" of reporter Juan Thompson.
"An investigation into Thompson’s reporting turned up three instances in which quotes were attributed to people who said they had not been interviewed," Reed wrote. "In other instances, quotes were attributed to individuals we could not reach, who could not remember speaking with him, or whose identities could not be confirmed."
Thompson, who worked for The Intercept from November 2014 until last month, was also said to have created fake email accounts to impersonate others, including Reed.
"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.
The website on Tuesday retracted Thompson's story on Roof and issued corrections on four other stories.
In his June 18 story on Roof, Thompson claimed he spoke by phone with the shooter's cousin, "Scott Roof." Two members of Roof's family have since told The Intercept they do not know such a person.
Thompson's story attributed quotes to "Scott Roof" about Dylann once dating a girl who left him for a black man. "He kind of went over the edge when a girl he liked starting dating a black guy two years back," the quotes read. "Dylann liked her...The black guy got her. He changed. I don’t know if we would be here if not."
The story was picked up by several major outlets. Reed now says The Intercept will contact those publications to alert them to the story's retraction.
According to his Intercept bio, Thompson's focus at the website included "crime, punishment, the police state, and race."
The other stories corrected by The Intercept on Tuesday included quotes attributed to people Thompson claimed were supporters of Donald Trump, a criminal justice professor the reporter said had spoken with him about violence against black women, and an activist who Thompson claimed had alleged corruption in Chicago courts.
Thompson did not return a request for comment from BuzzFeed News.
"The Intercept deeply regrets this situation," Reed wrote. "Ultimately, I am accountable for everything we publish. The best way we can see to maintain the trust of readers is to acknowledge and correct these mistakes, and to focus on producing journalism we are proud of."
David Mack is a reporter and weekend editor for BuzzFeed News in New York.
Contact David Mack at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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