Monday afternoon, the three-level headline on the homepage conservative website Breitbart News said it all: “Alabama Woman Says Roy Moore Sexually Assaulted Her in 1971… ’I Thought He Was Going to Rape Me’… Gloria Allred: Trump Supporter Came to Me.”
The revelations of another accuser of Roy Moore, the Republican’s problematic Senate candidate in Alabama, threw a bucket of cold water on Breitbart and former Trump strategist Steve Bannon’s attempt to back Moore amid multiple allegations of sexual misconduct.
In what it promoted as an “exclusive” blockbuster story less than 24 hours ago, Breitbart published a piece featuring an interview with the mother of one of the women who has accused Moore of initiating sexual contact with her when she was a teenager. The mother claimed reporters at the Washington Post convinced her daughter to go public.
“She did not go to them,” Nancy Wells told Breitbart of her daughter, Leigh Corfman, who accused Moore of attempting to initiate sexual contact with her when she was just 14. “They called her.”
Bannon and Breitbart editors undoubtedly hoped their story would undermine the credibility of the Post’s report. But the Breitbart article failed to refute any of the allegations made by the four accusers in the Post’s story, and inadvertently helped confirm the newspaper’s report.
In the Post story, Stephanie McCrummen, Beth Reinhard and Alice Crites wrote: “Neither Corfman nor any of the other women sought out The Post.”
While in Alabama reporting on supporters of Moore’s Senate campaign, rumors reached a Post reporter that the candidate once sought relationships with teenage girls. It took two Post reporters three weeks to contact and interview the four women featured in their story, who didn’t know one another and were all “initially reluctant to speak publicly but chose to do so after multiple interviews.”
“It’s called journalism. Breitbart might want to try it some time,” Karen Tumulty, a national political correspondent for the Post, wrote on Twitter.
It's called journalism. Breitbart might want to try it some time — pic.twitter.com/m8x7gTLHUv
— Karen Tumulty (@ktumulty) November 12, 2017
Even before the Post posted the bombshell story, Breitbart attempted to do damage control on behalf of Moore by attempting to smear the report as “fake news” and “intentional defamation.” Breitbart claimed the decision of the Post’s editorial board to endorse Doug Jones, Moore’s Democratic rival, was tantamount to a Jeff Bezos-led witch hunt, despite that fact that the editorial board is completely separate from the newsroom.
“The Jeff Bezos, Amazon Washington Post that weaponized the hit on Donald Trump on Billy Bush weekend, the same Bezos Washington Post weaponized this hit on Judge Roy Moore,” Bannon said on his radio show over the weekend. “Whether it is Donald Trump, Judge Roy Moore, Breitbart News, they are at full out war. You know what our response is? Bring it. We are at war.”
In addition, according to a report by Axios, Breitbart sent two of its top reporters, Matt Boyle and Aaron Klein, to Alabama with the intention of discrediting the Post’s reporting on Moore’s alleged sexual misconduct.
While coverage of the Moore scandal was buried on Breitbart’s homepage by mid-morning Monday, the site was still publishing articles that attempted to undermine the credibility of the Post’s original story by taking advantage of the mistrust, especially in conservative circles, of outlets like the Post.
“It does look more and more like some sort of a politically coordinated attack on Judge Moore,” Alex Marlow, the site’s top editor, said on SiriusXM Patriot’s Breitbart News Daily. “The fact The Washington Post really put the effort in to track down these women and try to convince them to come forward, tell their story. Why did they want them to come forward? Because they just love good journalism? You guys believe that?”
According to CNN’s Brian Stelter, Breitbart’s cynical strategy designed to prop-up a weak Republican Senate candidate could still end of helping him get elected in a conservative state like Alabama.
“Breitbart’s ominous framing of the Post’s reporting methods, while mocked by journalists, may work on readers reflexively distrustful of the press and willing to support Moore no matter what’s revealed about him,” Stelter wrote in his morning newsletter.
What Breitbart does and doesn’t report matters because so much of its content is filtered through popular conservative media websites like the Drudge Report and on right-wing talk radio before ending up on Fox News programs.
So far, Drudge doesn’t appear to have picked up any of Breitbart’s reports defending Moore, and Fox News’ opinion hosts have been divided on how to cover the revelations. Some, like Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham, have defended Moore, even as it cost Hannity several advertisers. But Tucker Carlson, who took over the 9 p.m. slot vacated by the firing of Bill O’Reilly, after his own run in with sexual assault allegations, said the Post’s story “sounds true” to him.
“I thought their story sounded credible to me,” Carlson said on his Friday night program. “I don’t have any other information, but if you took ‘The Washington Post‘ off — you’ve got women on the record. I take that seriously.”