Breitbart News sought this weekend to discredit the Washington Post and a woman who accused Roy Moore of trying to initiate sexual encounters with her when she was a minor, but the right-wing tabloid ended up doing the exact opposite.
Four women and 30 additional sources allege the Republican senatorial candidate trawled high schools and malls in Alabama in the late 1970s looking for intimate encounters with teens and minors, the Washington Post reported.
One of the four women, Leigh Corfman, said Moore once drove her to his house in a remote location in the woods, and invited her indoors. Once inside, she said, Moore stripped to his underwear and then proceeded to touch her, “over her bra and underpants and guided her hand to touch him over his underwear.”
Corfman was 14-years-old at the time. Moore was 32.
Moore has denied her story outright, though his overall response to the Washington Post report, which includes allegations he pursued relationships with 16- and 18-year-olds, has changed somewhat since the story’s initial publication.
Over the weekend, Breitbart News tried to go to bat for Moore, but ended up doing more damage to its own credibility in the process.
In one “EXCLUSIVE,” titled “Mother of Roy Moore Accuser Contradicts Key Detail of Daughter’s Sexual Misconduct Story,” Breitbart reported that contrary to the Post’s report, the 14-year-old Corfman did not have a telephone in her room, according to her mother, Nancy Wells.
However, Wells, told Breitbart, “the phone in the house could get through to her easily.”
Okay. Well, okay. That's not the slam-dunk Breitbart thinks it is.
In a second attempt aimed at discrediting Moore's accusers, Breitbart published an "EXCLUSIVE" titled, “Mother of Roy Moore Accuser: Washington Post Reporters Convinced My Daughter to Go Public.”
The article suggests a conspiracy to smear Moore based on Wells claiming her daughter didn’t go public with the sexual assault allegation until she was approached by the Washington Post, which is exactly what the Post reported.
Journalists Stephanie McCrummen, Beth Reinhard and Alice Crites included a passage in their report noting explicitly that their newsroom didn’t go into Alabama looking for stories like Corfman’s. Rather, a Washington Post reporter was assigned to cover an entirely separate issue in the Cotton State. Once there, however, the reporter was tipped off by locals regarding Moore’s alleged history of pursuing extremely young women.
That got the ball rolling. That reporter took the tips seriously, and the paper followed through, seeking out ways to confirm whether or not there was any truth to the claims. In short, they reported.
As the Washington Post story notes: “Neither Corfman nor any of the other women sought out The Post. While reporting a story in Alabama about supporters of Moore’s Senate campaign, a Post reporter heard that Moore allegedly had sought relationships with teenage girls.”
It added, “Over the ensuing three weeks, two Post reporters contacted and interviewed the four women. All were initially reluctant to speak publicly but chose to do so after multiple interviews, saying they thought it was important for people to know about their interactions with Moore. The women say they don’t know one another.”
For Breitbart, seeking out sources, following tips and approaching alleged victims for confirmation “[indicates] activist behavior on the part of the Washington Post reporters.”
The Breitbart story, which even notes that the Post didn't originally seek out the women, includes a headscratcher of a paragraph suggesting the author didn’t read the story closely: “In The Post’s article, the newspaper concedes that it approached the women, but it does not state that it worked to convince any of them to go public. The Post did report that the women were initially reluctant to go public.”
In its eagerness to defend Moore, Breitbart inadvertently boosted Corfman’s credibility by emphasizing she wasn’t looking for attention or trying to discredit the Republican’s senate campaign. She had to be sought out, just like the Washington Post reported. This hardly sounds like a political activist looking to sink a campaign.
And in its attempt to discredit the Washington Post, Breitbart ended up emphasizing that the paper’s dogged reporters, who spent weeks following up on tips and interviewing sources, are good at what they do.
If Breitbart eased off the activist routine for just a moment, they could learn a thing or two.