Democracy Dies in Darkness

The Fix | Analysis

Roy Moore used Breitbart to try to get in front of allegations that he pursued teenage girls

By Callum Borchers

November 9, 2017 at 5:27 PM

Stephen K. Bannon spoke at a rally for U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore on Sept. 25 in Fairhope, Ala. (Brynn Anderson/AP)

It is not unusual for a political figure to try to get in front of bad news. Recall that in July, when the New York Times was about to report on the contents of emails Donald Trump Jr. sent before meeting with a Russian lawyer during the presidential campaign, Trump Jr. decided to post the emails on Twitter “in order to be totally transparent.”

The idea was to make the Times' report seem inconsequential — before it even published — by appearing to release the emails voluntarily.

Roy Moore, the Republican Senate candidate in Alabama, made a similar effort on Thursday to head off The Washington Post's report that he allegedly initiated a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old and dated teenagers when he was in his 30s. But Moore did not use Twitter or any official campaign channel. He used Breitbart News.

Related: [Woman says Roy Moore initiated sexual encounter when she was 14, he was 32]

Minutes before The Post published its report, Breitbart posted a preemptive response from Moore under one of its signature, all-caps headlines: “AFTER ENDORSING DEMOCRAT IN ALABAMA, WASHINGTON POST PLANS TO HIT ROY MOORE WITH ALLEGATIONS OF INAPPROPRIATE RELATIONS WITH TEENAGERS; JUDGE FIRES BACK DENIAL.”

(Disclaimer: The Washington Post editorial board endorses candidates, not The Washington Post newsroom.)

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On Nov. 13, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called on Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore to "step aside" after women accused him of sexual misconduct. "I believe the women," McConnell said. Moore denied the allegations. (The Washington Post)

Breitbart has made no secret of its support of Moore. Website chairman Stephen K. Bannon headlined a rally for Moore before September's GOP runoff in Alabama, and there is not even a pretense of neutrality in Breitbart's coverage of the general-election contest between Moore and Democrat Doug Jones.

Yet Breitbart's willingness to be used as a media-relations arm of Moore's campaign is a dive even deeper into the tank.

It is reminiscent of the time in March 2016 when Breitbart conjured an elaborate, alternative account of an incident in which Donald Trump's campaign manager at the time, Corey Lewandowski, grabbed the arm of a female reporter — a reporter who worked for Breitbart, no less. Reconstructing the episode, Breitbart asserted that its own journalist must have mistaken Lewandowski for someone else.

Video evidence later proved that it was indeed Lewandowski who grabbed the reporter, Michelle Fields. Breitbart removed its article challenging Fields's account, but its initial, reality-defying defense of the Trump campaign drove Fields, editor-at-large Ben Shapiro and spokesman Kurt Bardella to resign in protest.

Breitbart, to its credit, has since demonstrated that it can hold Trump accountable on foreign policy, immigration, health care and other issues that are important to the president's base. In fact, getting behind Moore put the site at odds with Trump, who endorsed incumbent Republican Sen. Luther Strange in the runoff.

Now, however, Breitbart is veering back toward blind loyalty to a candidate.


Callum Borchers covers the intersection of politics and media.

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