Of all the things to lead to a Washington Post smackdown, Cockburn never would have expected it to happen over a pizza festival.
On Wednesday, Barstool Sports’s Dave Portnoy posted a call with a Washington Post reporter on social media. Portnoy had caught wind that the paper was running a hit piece on his One Bite Pizza Festival taking place in Brooklyn on Saturday and decided to hit back first.
Portnoy was tipped off by an email that reporter Emily Heil had sent to one the event’s largest sponsors. “We are planning to write about the festival and how some of the sponsors and participants have drawn criticism by seeming to associate themselves with Dave Portnoy, who has a history of misogynistic comments and other problematic behavior,” the email said. “I wanted to make sure that [redacted] had a chance to respond to this, since the company is the most prominent of the ‘partners’ for his festival.”
Of course, when Portnoy confronted Heil, she denied that she wrote anything to shame businesses out of sponsoring the event. After Portnoy read the email aloud, she eventually admitted it was harmless, just your standard scare tactic to get a source to respond. “It’s a reporter’s tactic when you want to get someone to respond,” she said glibly. “You kind of have to indicate there might be something negative and then you get them to engage.”
Hall claimed she had already been planning to call Portnoy the following morning — once she had dug up enough dirt. How convenient! The unexpected call with the star source must have been such a pleasant surprise.
Cockburn suspects Heil was planning to call shortly before publication, telling readers that Portnoy had “failed to respond for comment.” That is, as Heil said, “standard journalistic stuff.” Another standard practice is apparently to have a pre-written article before interviewing the source. Again, Heil denied this. “I don’t have a thesis, I’m just reporting. You’re an interesting guy,” she said. “You have an interesting role in the industry, and we just want to look at it.”
Portnoy and Heil did agree to speak again for an interview. Whatever the outcome, Cockburn is sure that Portnoy’s video, which has over 25 million views on X, and his pizza festival will be more successful than any piece the Post publishes.