Congressional reporter quits IJR news site over Barack Obama-Hawaii story

Caroline Mortimer
Barack Obama on a recent holiday to Hawaii. The 44th President is from Honolulu: AFP/Getty Images

A reporter at a major conservative website has quit his job over its reporting of a conspiracy theory about Barack Obama.

Joe Perticone, a Congressional reporter at the Independent Journal Review (IJR), is believed to have resigned on Thursday after the website published an article implying Mr Obama’s recent visit to Hawaii was linked to a Hawaiian federal judge’s decision to rule against Donald Trump’s revised travel ban.

The post, which has since been retracted, list all the connections between Mr Obama and the judge, Derrick Watson.

These include the fact they were at Harvard at the same time, that Obama appointed the judge while he was President and even that the former politician ate at a restaurant relatively near to the federal courthouse during his trip.

It said: "This is not to allege the former president met with Judge Derrick Watson, but merely to point out the timing and the opportunity was there ahead of a controversial court ruling".

The theory was also published on InfoWars – a website run by alt-right conspiracy theorist and Trump supporter Alex Jones.

The IJR later pulled the article and replaced it with text that read: “IJR published an article that does not meet our editorial standards or represent IJR's vision or values. We have retracted the story, and we deeply regret the error”.

The author of the piece, Kyle Becker, later wrote an email to staff apologising for not “showing restraint”.

The email said: “I take responsibility for showing a lack of judgement with the execution of a story this morning of already dubious pedigree that I would have done better just avoiding.

“I attempted to execute the story carefully, but crossed the line when I alleged a connection that was not based in fact.”

But this seems to have not been enough for Mr Perticone who is said to have resigned because he felt his credibility as a congressional reporter was at sake.

One source told Business Insider the story was “the straw that broke the camel’s back”.

The five-year-old news site, which aims to produce viral content for a conservative audience, has come under increasing scrutiny in recent months due to its close relationship with Mr Trump.

The site was the first to break the news that Neil Gorsuch was his nominee to fill the vacant Supreme Court seat and its White House correspondent, Erin McPike, was the only reporter allowed to travel with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on his trip to Asia this week.

Mr Trump has received fervent criticism for his repeated attacks on media outlets which criticise him, calling them fake news.

Last month, the White House was condemned from excluding several critical organisations such as CNN, the Guardian and the New York Times from attending a press “gaggle” with spokesman Sean Spicer.

In a statement released to Politico about the story, the IJR’s founder and CEO Alex Skatell said: "We take our responsibility as a news organisation on the board of News Media Alliance, Digital Content Next and the Trust Project seriously.

“I'm proud of our reporting team, past and present, and just as we've done since we were one writer and a handful of readers, we will continue to invest time and energy into strengthening our team and process."

Regarding Mr Perticone's resignation, he told The Independent: "Joe's a fantastic reporter with great instincts for covering the Hill, and will be an asset wherever he lands next.

"I'm extremely proud of our journalists and how they cover the news and in a way that reaches a large and unique audience."

A spokesman for the website said "As we stated on the site, IJR published an article yesterday that does not meet our editorial standards or represent IJR's vision or values. We retracted the story."

The Independent has contacted Mr Perticone for comment.

By using Yahoo you agree that Yahoo and partners may use Cookies for personalisation and other purposes