BuzzFeed, Covington, NFL controversies make for busy weekend in Court of Public Opinion

Three separate high-profile controversies -- involving politics, the media, a spontaneous public confrontation and sports -- inspired a great deal of debate on social media over the weekend. Whether anything resembling consensus emerged regarding any of the three was another matter for debate.

The dizzying pace began Thursday night after BuzzFeed News issued a bombshell report, now discredited, that cited two law enforcement officials who alleged that President Trump told his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, to lie to Congress about a potential construction project in Moscow, and claim the negotiations ended months before they did so as to conceal Trump’s supposed involvement.

The claims were enough to prompt a rare statement from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office, that the report was “almost entirely incorrect.” But BuzzFeed offered no corrections or admission of wrongdoing.


Instead, BuzzFeed News investigative reporter Anthony Cormier, appearing Sunday on CNN’s “Reliable Sources,” doubled down on the report, telling host Jake Tapper: “We’re being told to stand our ground. Our reporting is going to be borne out to be accurate, and we’re 100 percent behind it. The same sources that we use in that story are standing behind it, as are we.”

When asked Friday if he had personally seen the documents mentioned in the story, which proved Trump had ordered Cohen to lie to Congress, Cormier told CNN: “No, I’ve not seen it personally.”

By Sunday, the New York Times was writing about BuzzFeed's record of pushing "the limits" on journalistic credibility, noting that it was the same media outlet that had reported on the also discredited Steele dossier containing salacious allegations about President Trump.

The previous evening, the Washington Post noted that an email that BuzzFeed had sent to Mueller's team, warning them in advance about the story, mentioned that BuzzFeed planned to report about the newest allegations against Trump, but did not inform the special counsel that it also planned to write that the Mueller allegedly possessed evidence of Trump wrongdoing -- a detail that attracted much attention to the story but that also may have prompted the Mueller team's post-publication statement that BuzzFeed's reporting was "not accurate."

The public's doubts also began to emerge, via social media.

The debacle even prompted the left-wing outlet, "The Intercept" to publish an article titled: "Beyond BuzzFeed: The 10 Worst, Most Embarrassing U.S. Media Failures on the Trump/Russia Story," in which BuzzFeed's now-discredited story ranked second.

President Donald Trump called BuzzFeed's story "disgraceful," and the reason why the "Mainstream Media will have a hard time restoring credibility."

Covington incident: More to the story than one video

Meanwhile, a Kentucky high school student was charging "character assassination" Sunday, after a widely viewed video showed him standing face-to-face with a Native American amid a backdrop of jeering protesters in Washington.

The video drew accusations of racism against Nick Sandmann and other students from Covington Catholic High School, and the matter prompted school officials and the local Roman Catholic diocese to issue an apology regarding the students' behavior.

But after other footage emerged, many people began regarding the situation as being more complicated than depicted in the original viral video -- with some saying the school and diocese had no reason to apologize.

The new footage revealed tension developing before the confrontation, with an off-camera voice heard saying, "White people, go back to Europe where you came from," as Nathan Phillips, a 64-year-old Native American man, stood inches away from the students, banging a drum.

Then, apparently the same voice said, "This is not your land." The full context of the quotes was unclear.

By Sunday, U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., was asserting that the students had been treated unfairly -- and many people on social media seemed to agree.

Also on Sunday, student Sandmann shared his side of the story in a statement.

“I believed that by remaining motionless and calm, I was helping to [defuse] the situation,’’ Sandmann wrote. “I realized everyone had cameras and that perhaps a group of adults was trying to provoke a group of teenagers into a larger conflict.’’

“I believed that by remaining motionless and calm, I was helping to [defuse] the situation. I realized everyone had cameras and that perhaps a group of adults was trying to provoke a group of teenagers into a larger conflict.’’

— Nick Sandmann, Covington Catholic High School student

Rams-Saints: Pass interference or not?

In yet another stunning weekend controversy, the Los Angeles Rams are on their way to the Super Bowl after a 26-23 victory over the New Orleans Saints in Sunday's NFC Championship Game, thanks to what some say was the referees' failure to call a pass-interference penalty that would have aided a New Orleans scoring drive.

Los Angeles cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman put what looked like a helmet-to-helmet hit on New Orleans receiver Tommylee Lewis well before the pass arrived inside the 5-yard line, forcing the Saints to settle for Wil Lutz's 31-yard field goal and only a 3-point lead with 1:41 left in regulation time.

Rams placekicker Greg Zuerlein later sent the game into overtime with a 57-yard field goal. Then New Orleans got the ball first in the overtime period, but quarterback Drew Brees had a pass intercepted by L.A.'s John Johnson III.


The Rams were able to gain only 15 yards, but that was just enough room for Zuerlein to kick another field goal, sending the franchise to its first Super Bowl since the 2001 season.

Social media users had plenty to say about the NFL referees' non-call that led to the overtime, including calling their vision into question.

But Rams fans didn't seem to mind the circumstances surrounding their team's victory.

Fox News' Gregg Re and the Associated Press contributed to this report.