Democracy Dies in Darkness

Erik Wemple | Opinion

Steve Bannon's wacko Roy Moore conspiracy theory

November 10, 2017 at 11:49 AM

Watch more!
At a speech in Manchester, N.H. on Nov. 9, former White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon discussed claims about Alabama Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore’s sexual misconduct. (Reuters)

Breitbart boss Stephen K. Bannon on Thursday night ripped The Post. “The Bezos-Amazon-Washington Post that dropped that dime on Donald Trump,” said Bannon, referring to the October 2016 publication of the “Access Hollywood” tape, “is the same Bezos-Amazon-Washington Post that dropped the dime this afternoon on Judge Roy Moore. Now is that a coincidence? That’s what I mean when I say opposition party, right? It’s purely part of the apparatus of the Democratic Party. They don’t make any bones about it. By the way, I don’t mind it. I’ll call them out every day.”

And this: “It’s not a fair and free media anymore.”

Those comments followed Thursday’s big story in The Post — that Roy Moore reportedly had initiated a sexual encounter in 1979, when he was a 32-year-old assistant district attorney, with a then-14-year-old girl, Leigh Corfman. Three other women in the story say that Moore pursued them when they were between 16 and 18 and he was in his 30s. Moore is now the Republican nominee for an Alabama U.S. Senate seat, and also an ally of Bannon.

There was symmetry between the responses of these men. “These allegations are completely false and are a desperate political attack by the National Democrat Party and the Washington Post on this campaign,” said Moore in a statement published in Breitbart News before the story appeared.

Let’s now examine all the things that fellows like Moore and Bannon must, perforce, believe in order to make a straight-faced assertion that the story was, indeed, a “desperate political attack by the National Democrat Party and the Washington Post.”

Doing just this much reverse-engineering of The Post’s story hints at the reportorial girth underlying the allegations. Yet Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Thursday attached conditionality to the story: “If these allegations are true, he must step aside,” McConnell said in a statement. At least one other Republican senator used a similar construction.

Perhaps these folks don’t realize that such doubts don’t fault merely The Post; they fault the many women who agonized over lending their names to the story. They fault, in other words, the people of the great state of Alabama, to borrow the popular formulation.

And it’s here that Bannon’s hypocrisy emerges. Back when he was serving as chief strategist for the Trump White House, Bannon told the New York Times, “The media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States.”

Bolding added for the purpose of saying: Hey, seeking to understand the country is precisely what McCrummen was doing when she scored the tip for this explosive story. In the aftermath of the election, Trump supporters, as well as journo-graybeards, urged media outlets to get away from coastal bike-sharing hubs and into the places that had elected Trump as president.

McCrummen did that. The problem for Bannon here is that he doesn’t like what she found.

Erik Wemple, The Washington Post's media critic, focuses on the cable-news industry. Before joining The Post, he ran a short-lived and much publicized local online news operation, and for eight years served as editor of Washington City Paper.

Post Recommends

We're glad you're enjoying The Washington Post.

Get access to this story, and every story, on the web and in our apps with our Basic Digital subscription.

Welcome to The Washington Post

Thank you for subscribing
Keep reading for $10 $1
Show me more offers