Snopes co-founder David Mikkelson plagiarized 54 articles under three different bylines between 2015 and 2019, a Buzzfeed News report that was published Friday revealed.
Mikkelson published the content under his own name, his pseudonym “Jeff Zarronandia,” or a generic “Snopes staff” byline, according to the report.
Doreen Marchionni, the fact-checking site’s vice president of editorial and managing editor, suspended Mikkelson from his editorial duties as Snopes performs “a comprehensive internal investigation,” Buzzfeed reported. Mikkelson is still a 50% shareholder and an officer at Snopes.
In a statement published by Buzzfeed, Marchionni and Snopes COO Vinny Green said that the internal investigation began in late July/early August after Buzzfeed reporter Dean Sterling Jones contacted Marchionni about the plagiarized content. Green flagged 140 articles that were published under the generic byline for review and “identified other possible issues beyond Buzzfeed’s findings,” Snopes’ statement said.
The fact-checking site also plans to archive and retract all plagiarized stories. The page will remain accessible and link to the original news source, while an editor’s note will explain why the story was removed. Snopes also plans to contact all news outlets whose content was plagiarized and apologize.
“Let us be clear: Plagiarism undermines our mission and values, full stop,” the statement read. “It has no place in any context within this organization. We invite readers to let us know here if they find any other examples of plagiarized content so that we can apply the same treatment as above.”
Mikkelson also put out a statement apologizing for his “serious lapses in judgment” and said he was “doing everything I can to make it right.”