Today the Washington Post published a lengthy and (mostly) flattering profile of Benny Johnson, the serial plagiarist who was fired from BuzzFeed last summer and now peddles viral conservative content at Independent Journal Review. “D.C. has always been the city of second chances, now it just moves at meme speed,” reporter Ben Terris writes. “And no one can ride a meme like Benny Johnson.”

Terris is an experienced reporter, so it’s somewhat surprising he would bother to write what amounts to a rehabilitation of a person who repeatedly stole the work of other journalists. That sense of surprise immediately begins to wear off, however, once you take a look at both men’s Twitter feeds:

What kind of journalist would forgive Benny Johnson? The answer seems to be: “A journalist who happens to be friends with Benny Johnson.”

Update, 6:50 p.m.

After this post was published, Washington Post spokesperson Catherine Olsen emailed the following statement to Gawker:

Hi Keenan,

I saw your story and wanted to send you a response attributable to a Washington Post spokesperson. Ben would not have been assigned the story if there was a conflict of interest, such as a personal relationship with the subject of the story.


We’ve asked Olsen what she means by “personal relationship,” and will update if we hear back.

Update, 6/10/15

Terris tells Brendan James of Talking Points Memo that, despite their history of “taking selfies and joking about drinking and hanging out,” he and Johnson are not friends:

I think the story speaks for itself. As for whether we are friends, we are not friends. Have I been at events with him? Of course. I am a reporter in the Style section, my job is to go to events like these...

However, James notes that Terris “did not respond to a follow-up email from TPM asking for a further explanation of the photos.”

H/T Libby Watson