Taylor Lorenz, the Washington Post’s controversial internet culture beat reporter, was confronted by fellow journalist Ben Smith on stage about why she describes her online critics as acting in “bad faith.”

Smith, who worked with Lorenz when they were both employed by the New York Times, interviewed her on Thursday during the pre-launch event for Semafor, a new media startup co-founded by Smith.

He asked Lorenz why she kept referring to her critics as “bad faith actors.”

“How do you know who’s in bad faith? Like, what’s my faith? You’re sort of looking into people’s hearts and saying, ‘This person who disagrees with me, they’re not mad at me because I got something wrong, they’re not mad at me because they think I’m too liberal, they’re fundamentally in bad faith,’” Smith said.

“How do you say that?”

“You can tell the difference between someone who disagrees with you and someone who is not operating in good faith,” responded Lorenz, who was wearing a mask while Smith was unmasked.

“How?” Smith wondered.

“Based on the nature of their question, right? For instance, if they’re coming to you in an honest capacity, and saying, ‘Hey, I noticed X-Y-Z,’ you’re like, ‘Oh, OK, I’ll take your feedback,’” Lorenz said.

Lorenz, the Washington Post's internet culture beat reporter, has been a lightning rod of controversy.
Lorenz, the Washington Post’s internet culture beat reporter, has been a lightning rod for controversy.
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“On every story I write, I hear lots of different perspectives … but if somebody is coming at you and is making personal attacks, they’re misrepresenting you, they’re kind of actively participating in networked harassment … retweeting people who are not there for constructive criticism.”

She added: “I think you can tell the difference between constructive criticism and not-constructive criticism.”

Smith then said Lorenz’s critics may be angry or obnoxious while not necessarily acting in “bad faith.” He suggested that she was “guessing” people’s motives.

“How could you know?” Smith asked Lorenz.

She replied that it was “quite obvious” who was acting in bad faith, but acknowledged it was “somewhat of a guess.”

Lorenz has been at the center of controversy, particularly over her coverage of social media influencers as well as her criticisms of those who have blasted her stories online.

Last year, Lorenz and her then-employer, the Times, were sued by Ariadna Jacob, an influencer talent agent, for defamation.

Jacob alleges in the $6.2 million defamation suit that an article by Lorenz contained “numerous false and disparaging statements” about Jacob and her businesses, including an accusation that she leaked nude images of one of her clients to “manipulate him.”

Jacob started leasing out spaces in the mansions of Los Angeles to some of her clients, giving them a place to crash while they created viral videos.

Lorenz’s story claimed that Jacob jacked up the rent on tenants who lived in her influencer house, “Kids Next Door,” and exposed the agent’s alleged business practices and relationships with influencers — claiming that they were harassed over covering rent, not getting paid for their work and getting pressured to produce content daily.

Lorenz was also criticized by journalist Glenn Greenwald and Fox News host Tucker Carlson for incorrectly accusing Silicon Valley investor Marc Andreessen of using the “R-word” during a private discussion on the members-only Clubhouse app.

Lorenz was a reporter with The New York Times before she joined The Washington Post earlier this year.
Lorenz was a reporter with the New York Times before she joined the Washington Post earlier this year.

She appeared on MSNBC earlier this year and broke down in tears, claiming that the criticism she received led to a torrent of online abuse that gave her “severe PTSD” and led to suicidal thoughts.

In April, Lorenz and the Washington Post were accused of “doxxing” the anonymous woman behind the controversial “Libs of TikTok” account.

In May, Lorenz walked back claims that she was “relentlessly” harassed by an editor at the Drudge Report.

Last month, the Washington Post attached corrections to an article by Lorenz about social media influencers who used their platforms to cover the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard civil trial.

The original version of Lorenz’s story stated that two YouTube creators — Alyte Mazeika and another user who goes by the name “ThatUmbrellaGuy” — were contacted for comment before publication.

But the two influencers went on social media and claimed that they were never contacted by Lorenz. The reporter only reached out to them after the fact, according to the influencers.

Lorenz tweeted that a miscommunication with her editor is what led to the inaccurate line that was included in the initial version of her story — prompting a backlash that accused the reporter of shirking responsibility and laying the blame elsewhere.

The editor who worked the story, David Malitz, was denied a promotion that had been promised to him a short time earlier by the newspaper’s executive editor, Sally Buzbee.


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