According to hacked DNC emails published by Wikileaks, BuzzFeed president Greg Coleman made a $10,000 donation to the Democratic National Committee on May 23 for an event hosted by BuzzFeed chairman Ken Lerer and attended by President Obama—just two weeks before BuzzFeed’s advertising department canceled a $1.3 million ad deal with the Republican National Committee.
Although the DNC claimed no personal donor information had been captured in the hack, Coleman’s name, email address, home address, birth date, social security number and what appears to be a MasterCard number, are all listed in the cache, as are those of dozens of other donors. (Gawker is not linking to any emails containing credit card or Social Security numbers.)
The donation, other emails show, was made to guarantee a seat at a June 8 DNC fundraiser held at the home of BuzzFeed chairman Ken Lerer. The event, which featured President Obama, who was in New York that week, was reportedly attended by 60 donors, and raised at least $668,900, according to emails sent between Lerer and Zachary Allen, the chairman of Tipah Consulting.
Two weeks after Coleman’s donation, and two days before the fundraiser, BuzzFeed announced its ad department had canceled a deal with the Republican National Committee to run a Donald Trump ad campaign on the website. In an email to staff, BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti explained the candidate’s policies were antithetical to the value’s held by BuzzFeed’s advertising department.
“The tone and substance of his campaign are unique in the history of modern US politics. Trump advocates banning Muslims from traveling to the United States, he’s threatened to limit the free press, and made offensive statements toward women, immigrants, descendants of immigrants, and foreign nationals,” Peretti wrote. “Earlier today Buzzfeed informed the RNC that we would not accept Trump for President ads and that we would be terminating our agreement with them. The Trump campaign is directly opposed to the freedoms of our employees in the United States and around the world and in some cases, such as his proposed ban on international travel for Muslims, would make it impossible for our employees to do their jobs.”
Coleman doesn’t appear to play an editorial role in BuzzFeed’s structure, and it’s common for media executives to make political donations. But BuzzFeed’s decision to reject Trump ads is—while laudable—a relatively rare step by a media company into partisan politics.
It’s not clear what role Coleman, the president of the company, played in the decision to cancel the ad campaign, and he has yet not returned a request for comment. Still, it seems highly unlikely he was not involved in the high-profile, expensive decision to cancel the RNC’s ads. BuzzFeed announced when he was hired that he would be responsible for “the management and growth of all facets of the business, including sales, creative services, marketing, ad products and business development.”