Donald Trump at the media conference in Manhattan. (Reuters)
New York, Jan. 11: Memos with unsubstantiated contents so explosive that several mainstream newspapers refused to publish them in full have touched off a brawl between President-elect Donald Trump and a reporter at his first formal media conference since the November 8 election victory.
The memos contain unproven claims that Russian officials tried to obtain influence over Trump by preparing to blackmail him with sex tapes and bribe him with business deals. Some are referring to the scandal as "Watersportsgate" because of a lurid claim in the memos that were drawn up by a retired British spy initially for Trump's Republican rivals and later for Democratic clients.
The chiefs of America's intelligence agencies last week presented President Barack Obama with a two-page summary of the memos.
CNN first reported that the summary had been attached to the intelligence report but the network did not include the specific allegations, saying that its journalists could not independently verify them.
Since neither the intelligence agencies nor news organisations have been able to substantiate the claims, several newspapers such as The New York Times decided to briefly summarise the claims and not publish the document.
But BuzzFeed, the social news and entertainment site, made the controversial decision to publish the memos in full, despite the fact that its reporters had not confirmed or disproved the claims.
Tonight at his media conference, Trump angrily accused CNN of being "fake news" as he repeatedly refused to take a question from Jim Acosta, the network's reporter.
In a testy exchange, Acosta repeatedly asked for a question in order to respond to the President-elect's accusations against the network.
Trump said: "I am not going to give you a question. You are fake news."
Trump also lashed out at BuzzFeed News, calling the news organisation a "failing pile of garbage" and saying that "I think they are going to suffer the consequences".
CNN, the news division of Time Warner Inc, said after the media conference that its decision to publish "carefully sourced reporting" on the unverified intelligence documents was "vastly different than BuzzFeed's decision to publish unsubstantiated memos".
A BuzzFeed spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.