The Washington Free Beacon disclosed in congressional testimony on Friday that it is the mysterious client that initially paid for opposition research on Donald Trump performed by Fusion GPS, the firm that later worked with a former British spy to produce a dossier of claims about ties between Trump and Russia.
Just three days earlier, the Free Beacon, a conservative news site founded in 2012, told its readers that before Democrats hired Fusion GPS in April 2016, the firm's work “was funded by an unknown GOP client while the primary was still going on."
The GOP client was not “unknown” — not to the Free Beacon, anyway. The site's feigned ignorance would have led any reasonable reader to conclude, wrongly, that it was not involved in the work of Fusion GPS.
Free Beacon editor in chief Matthew Continetti did not immediately respond to a Fix inquiry about his site's lack of disclosure. But he and Free Beacon chairman Michael Goldfarb posted a statement on the site Friday night, in which they said that the Free Beacon routinely “has retained third-party firms to conduct research on many individuals and institutions of interest to us and our readers.”
“In that capacity,” they continued, “during the 2016 election cycle, we retained Fusion GPS to provide research on multiple candidates in the Republican presidential primary, just as we retained other firms to assist in our research into Hillary Clinton.”
Continetti and Goldfarb said they did not know about Fusion GPS's subsequent work on behalf of Democrats during the general election. The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee contracted Fusion GPS to dig up dirt on Trump, an effort that resulted in the dossier authored by Christopher Steele, which, in turn, yielded leads that the FBI investigated.
“We stand by our reporting, and we do not apologize for our methods,” Continetti and Goldfarb wrote.
Update: Continetti on Monday posted an additional statement on the Free Beacon's website:
Prior to Oct. 27, 2017, the Washington Free Beacon published several articles referencing the research firm Fusion GPS that did not disclose the relationship between Fusion GPS and the Washington Free Beacon. The reason for this omission is that the authors of these articles, and the particular editors who reviewed them, were unaware of this relationship.
The articles in question tended to be aggregated stories relying on the reporting done by other media outlets. This type of article undergoes a different editorial process from the original investigative pieces that appear on our website. Beginning today, all articles referencing Fusion GPS will mention its history with the Washington Free Beacon. The Free Beacon is also reviewing its editorial process with respect to aggregated news sources to consider ways to avoid similar issues in the future. We regret the error.
Fusion GPS is run by former Wall Street Journal reporters Glenn Simpson, Thomas Catan and Peter Fritsch. One could argue that the Free Beacon's hiring of Fusion GPS amounted to bringing in a few experienced, big-league journalists as consultants.
“It's a serious organization,” New York Times columnist Bret Stephens, another Journal alumnus, said of Fusion GPS on MSNBC this week.
But President Trump and his allies have sought to cast Fusion GPS as a shadowy, illegitimate outfit that produced a “fake” dossier. And the Free Beacon published such characterizations unchallenged — without noting that it considered Fusion GPS reliable enough to pay for its services.