The Washington Post has issued a pair of corrections after staff reporter Taylor Lorenz first falsely claimed to have contacted YouTubers ThatUmbrellaGuy and LegalBytes for comment on the outcome of the Johnny Depp v. Amber Heard defamation trial and subsequently edited her piece to remove the claim without providing any editorial notice.
Initially published on June 2nd, “Who won the Depp-Heard trial? Content creators that went all-in.” saw Lorenz offer her thoughts on how “the trial offered a potential glimpse into the future of media, where content creators serve as the personalities breaking news to an increasing number of viewers — and, in turn, define the online narrative around major events. Those creators can also bring in major personal profit in the process.”
Proceeding to single out the two aforementioned content creators, Lorenz reported that attorney Alyte “LegalBytes” Mazeika “earned $5,000 in one week by pivoting the content on her YouTube channel to nonstop trial coverage and analysis, according to Business Insider,” while “ThatUmbrellaGuy, an anonymous YouTuber whose entire channel is dedicated to pro-Depp content, earned up to $80,000 last month, according to an estimate by social analytics firm Social Blade.”
Though her piece lacked any quotes or insight on their success from the creators themselves, the infamous Washington Post staff writer assured readers that “Mazeika and ThatUmbrellaGuy did not respond to requests for comment.”
However, Lorenz’s piece was soon met with massive pushback from both Mazeika and ThatUmbrellaGuy, both of whom asserted that they had never received any form of contact from Lorenz prior to the story’s publication.
“Um. This says I didn’t respond to requests to comment? I know I’ve gotten a lot of emails over the past two months, but I’ve just double checked for your name, @TaylorLorenz, and I see no email from you,” said Mazeika. “Also, I didn’t suddenly pivot. I started covering this before trial began.”
Likewise, ThatUmbrellaGuy tweeted, “Looks like ThatUmbrellaGuy made The Washington Post, because ‘dedicated pro-Depp content.’ Nice how they speculate at what I made 1 month, btw, but omit YEARS of coverage” before asking “to see proof that Washington Post reached out to me, bc I got no email or Twitter DMs.”
Soon after these public call outs, both creators would report that they had finally and truly been contacted by Lorenz.
“UPDATE,” Mazeika alerted her followers roughly three hours after her initial tweet. “I have now been (for the first time) reached out to for comment… After the piece was already published and I had to call it out. This is so dumb.”
Separately, though near simultaneously, ThatUmbrellaGuy shared an email he received from Lorenz and revealed, “The Washington Post LIED and DID NOT contact me before including me in their story on Johnny Depp, despite reporting they did so. I noted this on Twitter today at 8:31p. At 9:44p they decided to contact me, AFTER I noted this publicly.”
“The Washington Post HEAVILY misrepresented what Adam Waldman said, too, and its hilarious considering how they characterize their reporting versus others reporting on cases that didn’t sell out to CORP brands,” he added, highlighting a passage wherein Lorenz claimed that Depp’s former attorney had “‘slid’ into big influencers’ DMs to provide information about the case and promote the notion that Depp was innocent.”
He further called out how the mainstream news outlet “FLAGRANTLY misrepresented my earnings report and needs to correct it.”
“Social Blade says I made between $4.9k and $79.1k,” ThatUmbrellaGuy explained. “They ADDED TO the highest estimate, overreporting for dramatic effect.”
Following these respective call outs, The Washington Post removed Lorenz’s initial claim about having reached out to the two content creators and replaced them on June 3rd with two new clarifications, one noting that Mazeika “declined to comment for this story,” and another that “ThatUmbrellaGuy could not be reached for comment.”
However, in making these edits, the outlet failed to disclose that they had done so.
It was not until being reached for comment on their apparent edits by Fox News that The Washington Post finally came clean, amending the report on June 4th with an Editor’s Note explaining that “The first published version of this story stated incorrectly that Internet influencers Alyte Mazeika and ThatUmbrellaGuy had been contacted for comment before publication. In fact, only Mazeika was asked, via Instagram.”
“After the story was published, The Post continued to seek comment from Mazeika via social media and queried ThatUmbrellaGuy for the first time,” The Washington Post added. “During that process, The Post removed the incorrect statement from the story but did not note its removal, a violation of our corrections policy. The story has been updated to note that Mazeika declined to comment for this story and ThatUmbrellaGuy could not be reached for comment.”
They also clarified that “ A previous version of this story also inaccurately attributed a quote to Adam Waldman, a lawyer for Johnny Depp. The quote described how he contacted some Internet influencers and has been removed.”
This Editor’s Note also came with a lengthy response from Lorenz herself, who took to Twitter that same day to deflect from taking responsibility for her actions in favor of disingenuously positioning herself as a victim of an unfair harassment campaign.
“Last Thursday, an incorrect line was added to a story of mine before publishing due to a miscommunication with an editor,” began Lorenz. “I did not write the line and was not aware it was inserted. I asked for it to be removed right after the story went live.”
She continued, “The line was a sentence saying that I reached out to 2 YouTubers for comment for my story. The inclusion of the YouTubers was only in passing, citing another outlet’s reporting.”
“After the story went live, I reached out to both YouTubers mentioned in that sentence just to be extra sure there wasn’t some sort of commentary they wanted to add,” she said. “Neither provided comment for the story and both continued to post about me.”
“The mention of these two individuals was not remotely the focus of my story,” she attempted to downplay her lack of basic journalistic integrity. “It’s become a huge distraction. I spoke to over two dozen creators for my story about the trial, along with other experts who are quoted in the piece.”
Further dismissing her own actions, Lorenz then argued, “This should have been a small correction for a miscommunication, but it turned into a multi-day media cycle, intentionally aimed at discrediting the Washington Post and me.”
“We have a responsibility to recognize these bad faith campaigns for what they are and when these sorts of things do and do not warrant acknowledgment,” she said without a hint of irony.
“I’m extremely happy at the Washington Post,” Lorenz declared. “I chose to work here because it’s a really incredible place filled with amazing, talented journalists and editors. Bad actors recognize the Washington Post’s earnest desire to hear and incorporate feedback, and they exploit that.”
Ultimately, Lorenz concluded, “I know that the stuff I write about and go through is hugely unfamiliar to the vast majority of people in media! I have great hope that all of us can learn from this experience.”
However, Lorenz’s non-apology and The Washington Post’s Editor’s Note only served to draw further criticism from Maezika and ThatUmbrellaGuy, both of whom accused the outlet and its arguably most prominent reporter of propagating further falsehoods.
“What?!” exclaimed a confused Maezika. “@washingtonpost I will say this AGAIN. I was not reached out to by @TaylorLorenz for comment until after my tweet below. She reached out to me by IG DM AFTER she did on Twitter. Both DMs were sent to me AFTER I called her out here. Please stop lying and take the L.”
Turning to address Lorenz’s thread, specifically her claim that after reaching out to the two YouTubers, neither provided comment for the story”, the attorney responded, “Oh, idk about that, Taylor, I believe @ThatUmbrella and I both gave commentary to add—just not the kind you wanted to include.”
“And for the record, your latest editor’s note is still not correct,” she added.
Offering his own criticisms on the The Washington Post and Lorenz’s responses, ThatUmbrellaGuy fired back, “Washington Post writer Taylor Lorenz is LYING AGAIN about me.”
“She wrote an article that said SHE REACHED OUT TO ME BEFORE SHE WROTE THE ARTICLE,” he elaborated. “She lied. After I posted this on social media, she reached out. Even the Post agreed thus was wrong and added a retraction FFS.”
Continuing to address the issue in a YouTube video shared to his personal channel, ThatUmbrellaGuy warned his viewers, “Right now, this is still going on.”
“Right now they are still attacking myself, they are still attacking other people, they are putting out hit piece after hit piece, they are becoming more flagrant about it, they’re talking to lawmakers, trying to make sure that you can never talk about something like this again,” he summarized. “Why? Because, again, they backed one of the biggest hoaxes ever. They never saw us coming.
“The Washington Post, if you want war, I will give you war,” declared ThatUmbrellaGuy in closing to his video. “If that’s what you really want. You already gotten made to look like a fool. You want war, we can do that, or you can just apologize. You can let male domestic abuse survivors actually have their day. Let them have their voice. Because if you don’t, well, people will force you too.”
What do you make of the situation surrounding Lorenz, Maezika, and ThatUmbrellaGuy? Let us know your thoughts on social media or in the comments down below!