There is a lot to unpack in BuzzFeed’s follow-up to its original report suggesting a popular Christian couple may believe homosexuality is a sin, so we will try to keep it simple.

The basic takeaway is this: BuzzFeed should have never published the report in the first place, and the editors should have insisted the author answer the question raised by her own reporting.

The online news group published an article Tuesday suggesting Chip and Joanna Gaines, hosts of HGTV’s “Fixer Upper,” may agree with their church’s teachings on LGBT issues.

However, the article, titled “Chip And Joanna Gaines’ Church Is Firmly Against Same-Sex Marriage,” doesn’t answer its own question, and says only that it’s “unclear” where the couple stand on the matter.

BuzzFeed’s requests for comment went unanswered. Spokespersons for the news group defended the story, and told the Washington Examiner that they gave HGTV and the Christian couple plenty of time to respond. BuzzFeed’s editor-in-chief also argued that the network’s apparent silence was a legitimate news story.

Later, on Thursday, BuzzFeed published a second article titled, “LGBT Couples Welcome On ‘Fixer Upper,’ HGTV Says.”

“An HGTV spokesperson said the network doesn’t discriminate against the LGBT community after a BuzzFeed News report on ‘Fixer Upper’ hosts Chip and Joanna Gaines’ pastor, who has been vocal against same-sex marriage and in favor of converting LGBT people into being straight,” the second report read.

To sum up the two-day affair: BuzzFeed did not hear back from network representatives, so it published an article imputing something on to two popular Christian TV hosts. HGTV eventually responded, stating clearly that the suggestions in the original BuzzFeed article were way off base.

Now BuzzFeed has an answer, but no story.

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This could have been avoided had the BuzzFeed reporter held on to her report until she had some hard information on what the Gainses believe, which brings us to a small, but troubling, detail in the original story.

The first BuzzFeed report, the one that started it all, reads:

So are the Gaineses against same-sex marriage? And would they ever feature a same-sex couple on the show, as have HGTV’s “House Hunters and Property Brothers”? Emails to Brock Murphy, the public relations director at their company, Magnolia, were not returned. Nor were emails and calls to HGTV’s PR department.

Here is a little inside baseball: When a subject states outright that they will not speak to the press, it’s common for a reporter to write something along the lines of, “so-and-so declined to comment.”

It’s very specific language. It is used to convey that contact was made, and that the queried party was not interested in talking. That can be very newsworthy! Why the silence? Why do they refuse to speak?

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Not hearing back at all is much different. The silence may or may not be intentional, and that could make all the difference.

The BuzzFeed article does not say HGTV and the couple declined to comment. Rather, it says only that no one responded to the reporter’s questions. There could be several reasons for the silence, and many of them could be completely innocent.

Did the author of the story email the correct person? Did HGTV and the Gainses receive her email? Did the email end up in a spam account? Did it end up in a trash account? Did the reporter call HGTV and the Gainses? If so, did someone answer both times? If not, did the reporter leave a message? Did she speak clearly? Did she speak to a secretary or with a representative directly? Did the author of the story really contact HGTV and the Gainses?

And so on and so on.

BuzzFeed reached out to several representatives, according to a spokesperson for the company.

The reporter “emailed Brock Murphy, who runs Magnolia’s PR, twice. When she didn’t hear back from him, she emailed PR people from HGTV and Scripps to ask for their help getting an answer. They did not respond, so Kate called them both, and left messages on Monday,” the spokesperson said.

“When HGTV did respond today, they responded to the same thread as the original emails, so yes, we feel confident they got them,” she responded.

So an effort was made to contact HGTV. Excellent. However, total silence isn’t the same as declining to comment. There’s only so much that can be interpreted from an unanswered email, and it’s will usually be pure speculation.

Also, according to the BuzzFeed spokesperson, there was nothing to show that the reporter’s emails were even going through until HGTV responded today.

The silence could have been one thing, and it could have been another. Point is: It could have been many different things, and it’s the job of the reporter to find out what that thing is.

Unfortunately, in this case, that didn’t happen.

This article has been updated.

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President-elect Trump will nominate legendary retired Marine Corps Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis as his defense secretary, despite a law barring recently retired generals from running the Pentagon, Trump announced Thursday at a rally in Cincinnati.

He said he will officially make the announcement Monday next week.

Mattis, beloved by his troops and widely respected by military and civilian leaders alike, is expected to easily get a waiver from Congress to the federal statute that requires the defense secretary to come from civilian life, or be out of uniform seven years.

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