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.”
- You must believe that Stephanie McCrummen, a national enterprise reporter for The Post and the lead byline on the story, traveled twice to Alabama just to dig up the story. In an interview Thursday with the Erik Wemple Blog, McCrummen said that the tip for the story emerged from an hours-long conversation. “It was a random encounter with someone,” she said. That “someone,” you have to believe, was a Democratic operative.
- You must believe that the central subject in the story, Corfman, is driven by party imperatives. The story describes her as follows: “Corfman, 53, who works as a customer service representative at a payday loan business, says she has voted for Republicans in the past three presidential elections, including for Donald Trump in 2016.” She described her experience consistently in six interviews, notes the story. None of the women have worked for or contributed to Moore’s opponents in his quest for the Senate seat.
- You must believe that Nancy Wells, Corfman’s 71-year-old mother, is in on it. She is quoted as corroborating a scenario in which Moore approached Corfman and sought to stay with the 14-year-old while Wells went to a court hearing in Etowah County, Ala. Don’t forget Betsy Davis, now living in Los Angeles, who “says she clearly remembers Corfman talking about seeing an older man named Roy Moore when they were teenagers.”
- You must believe that Wendy Miller, Debbie Wesson Gibson and Gloria Thacker Deason — the other women who say they were approached for dates by Moore — were down with Democratic propaganda.
- You must believe that the more than 30 people interviewed for the story were as well.
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.