The main problem with fake news and false narratives is not the stories themselves, but the people who write them. Gossip Cop knows because we've been calling them out for nine years. Our only agenda is and has been to separate fact from fiction in celebrity reporting. That's it. But for the past 8 months, we've been dealing with a freelance writer who most assuredly has an agenda, having concocted one bizarre premise after another about us.
His name is Joseph Trotter, though he goes professionally by Keenan Trotter and J.K. Trotter. He's a former Gawker staffer, who's been cobbling together various conspiracies for years about Gossip Cop, including how our celebrity fact-checking site was supposedly part of a secret presidential coverup. (Aisle Three for tin foil.) Naturally, the story was provably untrue and even Gizmodo, the Gawker spinoff that was his former employer, didn't publish his off-base premises on at least two occasions.
Nearly seven years ago, Gossip Cop posted a story about Stormy Daniels, who allegedly had an affair with Donald Trump. At the time, Trump's camp told us it was "ridiculous." But we didn't necessarily believe Team Trump. We did, however, take Daniels' own lawyer's word when he called the report untrue.
Fast forward to 2016. Gossip Cop embarked on a huge cleanup of the site, which included, under the advice of search engine optimization specialists, redirecting what were old stories, as well as what's considered "thin" content, articles that were being penalized by Google's Panda algorithm for being too short. It was decided all the "thin" and outdated content from the site's launch in July 2009 through 2014 would be redirected. It should be noted that thousands of other websites similarly dug themselves out from the effects of Panda.
One of those stories that was redirected, a common practice for websites, was the Daniels article from 2011. It was a "thin" 187 words compared to our more robust stories that now generally run well in excess of 400 words. By April 2016, that piece and thousands of other articles were wholesale redirected, regardless of their length or subject matter. Frankly, having published more than 55,000 stories, none of us even remembered it.
But in January 2018, Trotter, who's admitted he takes "joy" in "inventing" conspiracies, had convinced himself Gossip Cop got rid of the Daniels post as part of a presidential coverup. We responded, "It's actually a very simple explanation... We've been doing a site cleanup, removing thousands of articles that are old and haven't been searched in about half a decade. There's no point to having 'Jennifer Aniston NOT Pregnant, Despite Report' from 2011, for instance... It's just basic site upkeep. Nothing juicy, alas."
Seemingly disinterested in the truth, the Gawker alum continued on his expedition. Hellbent on a presenting a narrative (albeit false one), Trotter kept harassing us, all in the hope of finding a "gotcha" moment that just didn't exist. We explained that we rarely do fact-checks about Trump, noting "there are plenty of political sites that do them... I know you're looking for some sort of smoking gun, but it's really a simple site cleanup," Gossip Cop's owner, Michael Lewittes, assured him.
Ultimately, the Donald Trump conspiracy piece blew up in Trotter's face, and we thought we heard the last of him. But he kept stewing. Now, Trotter's reemerged and informed us he's pitched a piece to the New York Times that will be a "fair, interesting, and illuminating story about Gossip Cop and the way it fact-checks the celebrity gossip press." That's hard to believe since Trotter has already strayed way off-topic to pester Lewittes's synagogue for information about him and his wife. More about that in a bit.
Being transparent apparently isn't enough for Trotter. And we shouldn't have been surprised. After debunking a series of wholly untrue reports in 2014 that wrongly alleged Taylor Swift and Karlie Kloss were dating, Trotter accused us of being part of some other coverup, even questioning on Gawker, "What is Gossip Cop trying to hide?"
Actually, the first story Gossip Cop debunked about Kloss and Swift possibly being a couple was written by none other than Trotter himself and titled, "Is Taylor Swift Living, and Maybe in Love, With a Woman?" In yet another one of his pantheon of conspiracies, Trotter wondered why an article about the two friends was removed by The Mail on Sunday. He wrote, "So why doesn't the Mail want us to know about Swift's new roommate? Is there something else going on here?"
The British paper removed it because the premise of Kloss and Swift being more than friends was untrue. And contrary to Trotter's belief, we weren't trying to "hide" anything. He was simply trying to push yet another fabricated premise.
Since then Trotter has obsessively fixated on Gossip Cop and Lewittes from afar, trolling public forums where we've posted questions that conscientious owners ask about issues related to search engine results, including site cleanup and fixing a variety of technical errors. Yet each time Trotter thought he found his "gotcha" moment, we've pointed out his mistakes, misperceptions, and misunderstandings. He once sheepishly acknowledged we're "believable" and feigned "regret" in how our exchanges went.
It seems like much in life is a conspiracy to Trotter, who falsely maintained Katie Holmes routinely slipped out of her New York apartment via a secret entrance in a Whole Foods connected to her building. At the end of his series of articles on the subject, complete with photos and blueprints of the building, Trotter again had to admit he was wrong, though he tried to spin and defend that wild goose chase by saying he had an anonymous "source," who in turn had another anonymous "source," who alleged Holmes exited her building that way once.
An unnamed "source" who heard from another unnamed "source"?! Ironically, Trotter has written articles castigating the Times for its anonymous sourcing. More about that in a bit.
By the way, not one person from Whole Foods, Holmes' camp, or the building's management confirmed on the record Trotter's manufactured theory. Still, Trotter squealed, "The best thing about conspiracy theories isn't the joy of inventing them... is that, sometimes, they turn out to be true." Notwithstanding Trotter admitting he takes joy in "inventing" conspiracies — much like his doozies about Gossip Cop — the Holmes story was never true, not even once.
Even a colleague, while lightheadedly mocking him, said Trotter "made the whole thing up for his own sick amusement."
But Trotter's unhealthy obsession with us didn't end when we rained on his Stormy Daniels conspiracy theory. Five months later, in an email obtained by Gossip Cop, Trotter literally reached out to the International Fact-Checking Network asking about our involvement. "My deadline is noon tomorrow," he claimed at the end of his email, despite no story ever being published. This was at least his second attempt at a hatchet job that Gizmodo never printed. We half-anticipated Trotter to crash seminars we attended for fact-checkers that the IFCN sponsored in Rome in June.
Now Trotter has pitched the same-ish Gossip Cop story, this time to the New York Times's "Styles" section. It seemed strange the Times would get in bed with a self-proclaimed conspiracist who's been busted for inaccurate reporting, including by Gossip Cop. It was even weirder that it would be in the "Styles" section, since our staff is decidedly unstylish. But it's less odd, considering he's now out of work and looking for paid gigs.
So what was Trotter's latest smoking gun? Was Gossip Cop's wholesale deletion of "thin" articles, including the Daniels piece and thousands of others, part of some vast right-wing conspiracy? Uh, we're an entertainment site that fact-checks stories about J. Lo and works daily with the Hollywood community.
Additionally, as Gossip Cop noted in our 9th anniversary post, over the past couple of years we've been redirecting all the non fact-checking stories, including TV recaps and "celebrity reaction" articles. But before those off-topic reports were redirected, we published dozens upon dozens of articles that were arguably not favorable to Trump, including "The View" slamming him for supporting Roy Moore and celebrities blasting the president for wanting to ban transgender people from the military.
Curiously, Trotter, who claims he wants to do a piece on Gossip Cop's transparent reporting, now hides his social media history, having deleted all of his tweets. He forgot, however, to fully scrub the tweets he "liked" that slam the reporting of the Times — from which he's trying to get paid. In one of many tweets, Trotter felt the Times publishes "rumors." He also "liked" a message that read, "What's worse, Yahoo Answers or anonymous sources in the New York Times?" And in yet another tweet, Trotter "liked" when a colleague cursed and hurled a racial epithet at Clyde Haberman, Pulitzer Prize-winning, former Times columnist and father of the paper's White House reporter Maggie Haberman.
(As an aside, because of Gawker's bankruptcy, Trotter's been unable to swipe clean his repeated attacks on the Times, which have ranged from railing against the paper for not outing people's sexual orientations to alleging its "pathologies" include refusing to credit other outlets that have supposedly beaten it to a story. He also took glee in publishing a picture surreptitiously taken on the New York subway of the Times's publisher A.G. Sulzberger, which Gossip Cop won't link to out of respect for his privacy.)
A month ago, Trotter once again shifted narratives and now asserts that his pitched piece for the Times will focus on our "philosophy of fact-checking." He reiterated in a second email, as noted above, how he "want[s] to tell a fair, interesting, and illuminating story about Gossip Cop and the way it fact-checks the celebrity gossip press." So why did Trotter reach out to the Lewittes's synagogue about a story that "fact-checks the celebrity gossip press"?
How does Lewittes's synagogue or wife, who have no connection to the celebrity news site, have ANYTHING to do with Trotter's purported article about "Gossip Cop and the way it fact-checks the celebrity gossip press"?
What does Lewittes's religion have ANYTHING to do with whether tabloid stories about Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are true or not?
A desperate Trotter one night frantically called Lewittes after office hours on his personal cell and telegraphed how he's only interested in a slanted, hit job by asking, "Is there anyone who could say something nice" about Lewittes or Gossip Cop?
From the beginning of the year until the present, the former Gawker writer has been disingenuous, if not outright dishonest, about his motives and agenda. Remember, even Gizmodo didn't print Trotter's mischaracterizations about Gossip Cop on a few go-arounds. And now he's trying to get the Times to ride shotgun as he zips from one unrelated and off-topic detour after another.
It's puzzling that the Times is even entertaining a story by a guy who alleges he's writing a piece about "Gossip Cop and the way it fact-checks the celebrity gossip press," and instead contacts Lewittes's synagogue about him and his wife. And then further lies to the house of worship that he's "fact-checking a story for the New York Times that requires me to ask" about them.
Gossip Cop reached out to the Times for a comment and was told, "We don't comment on what may or may not publish in the future." Trotter did not respond to our requests for a comment via email and by phone. Also, the editor who's supposedly overseeing the article never called Gossip Cop about our issues with Trotter after agreeing upon a specific time.
At a time when journalists are under fire, if writers are going to shift narratives, manufacture premises that don't actually exist, look for "gotcha" moments where there are none, dissemble about their true motives, and push bogus agendas via disjunctive, tenuous and incomplete information, then there's good reason for the public not to trust the media.
Incredibly, though, despite Trotter's unrelenting witch hunt, he missed the big scoop. And now it's time to come clean. Gossip Cop will admit its owner met with the Russians. Back in 1984, Lewittes traveled as a teen to the Soviet Union, where under the cloak of darkness he secretly met Russians — they happened to have been Russian dissidents who opposed the Kremlin and wanted to leave the U.S.S.R. So there's the smoking gun.
Gossip Cop has determined this story is accurate to the best of our ability.