IJR Staffers Suspended for Promoting Obama Conspiracy Theory

Independent Journal Review suspended three staff members, including chief content officer Benny Johnson, for suggesting that Obama may have interfered in a Hawaii judge's ruling on the Trump travel ban.

Published Mar 21, 2017

 (Evan El-Amin /
Image Via Evan El-Amin /

Independent Journal Review (IJR), a conservative-leaning news and opinion web site founded in 2012, has suspended three members of their editorial staff "indefinitely" in connection with the 13 March 2017 publication of an article (since retracted) implying, without evidence, that former President Barack Obama may have interfered in a federal judge's ruling blocking parts of President Trump's revised travel ban. 

According to a report by Business Insider, those suspended were Kyle Becker (author of the article), Becca Lower (content editor), and Benny Johnson (chief content officer).

Johnson, who joined IJR after being fired for plagiarism by Buzzfeed in 2014, assigned the Obama story to Becker despite being warned that it was unfounded, a source told Business Insider.

The suspensions come at an awkward moment for Independent Journal Review, whose visibility has grown since the election of President Trump. IJR scooped the mainstream media by being the first to report that Neil Gorsuch would be Trump's first Supreme Court nominee, and their White House correspondent, Erin McPike, was picked by the State Department to be the only journalist accompanying Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on his March 2017 trip to Asia.

IJR founder and CEO Alex Skatell acknowledged that his team had "got it wrong" in publishing the Obama story in a statement to Business Insider:

We are committed to an editorial team that includes voices, perspectives and geographies that span the country but equally committed to quality standards in our newsroom. As we've grown we've sought to improve on that front and last month we launched our six person editorial operations team along with enforcement and review for all editorial content. Last week we got it wrong and ultimately deserve all the criticism if we want to be taken seriously. As a result of last week's failure Kyle Becker has been suspended indefinitely as well as his supervisor and Chief Content Officer Benny Johnson and the content editor approving the post Becca Lower. We are reviewing all the details to determine if further action is necessary, this ultimately falls on me to get right and we have to do better in the future. has reached out to Mr. Skatell and his publication for further comment, but we have not yet received a reply.


Darcy, Oliver.   "Inside the Identity Crisis at the Independent Journal Review, the Outlet that Has Become a Powerhouse in the Trump Era."     Business Insider.   21 March 2017.

Feldman, Josh.   "BuzzFeed Editor Fired Over Plagiarism Charges, Apologizes on Twitter."     Mediaite.   26 July 2014.

Gold, Hadas.   "Meet the Web Site that Scooped the World on Gorsuch."     Politico.   2 February 2017.

Perlberg, Steven.   "IJR Lands the Only Press Spot on Tillerson’s Plane to Asia."     BuzzFeed.   14 March 2017.

David Emery is a West Coast-based writer and editor with 25 years of experience fact-checking rumors, hoaxes, and contemporary legends.

Read More

a Member

Your membership is the foundation of our sustainability and resilience.


Ad-Free Browsing on
Members-Only Newsletter
Cancel Anytime