Trickle-down authoritarianism is here. Or, at least, it made a forceful and farcical appearance Tuesday at a press event hosted by defenders of Roy Moore, the Alabama Senate candidate whose alleged history of making sexual advances on teenagers as a 30-something man was reported this month by The Washington Post.
As follow-up reports have heaped greater and greater credibility on those accusations, the Moore camp lashed out at the media (obviously), establishment Republicanism as represented by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (obviously), Moore’s accusers (obviously and so scandalously) and Fox News (totally not obviously). Three gentlemen spoke at the event, though Moore campaign strategist Dean Young ran away with the demagogic honors.
The gist of Young’s message was that there was a great effort afoot to trick the people of Alabama into believing scandalous things about Moore, a longtime ally of Young. “I want you to understand, Alabamians, that the Judge Moore you knew two weeks ago is the same Judge Moore. … The Washington Post and all the fake media for the last two weeks have said everything they could say about Judge Moore. They’re trying to dig people up, put them on TV and say, ‘Judge Moore is a bad guy.’ … If you can be tricked, Alabamians, with the $30 million from Mitch McConnell — maybe it’s 40 by now — and the Washington Post fake stories — if you can be tricked in two weeks about Judge Roy Moore, then they win,” said Young, who pledged to be the “most conservative” member of Congress in a failed 2013 race.
That was a warmup. As he stood before the media, Young got more and more impassioned with his direct appeals to his fellow citizens, speaking in a manner whose transcription requires a fair amount of colons:
I tell you this, media, fake news people: Let me tell you this: Alabamians will go and they’ll have Thanksgiving on Thursday. Black Friday will start — then we’re going to have a war amongst ourselves. It’s called the Iron Bowl. But I’m going to tell you something: After church on Sunday and this is what I want you Alabamians to do: I want you all to talk about it at Thanksgiving. And I want you all to talk about it Sunday night at the church. And I want you all to think in your brains: [The] Judge Moore that we’ve all known for 25 years — are we going to be sold a bill of goods by Mitch McConnell and the fake news? Are we? Are we that gullible? And the answer’s going to be no.
I’ll tell you right now, there was a poll done last night, media, and Judge Moore was over six points ahead still. You get Fox News to put out their fake polls and everybody else can too, but he’s still winning and he’s never been losing because the people of Alabama don’t go for what you’re trying to sell.
And all this Jerry Springer stuff is over and I’m talking to all y’all. We’re not going to do this anymore as a campaign. So all you people, run around yelling stuff at Judge Moore, asking him these ridiculous questions. I’m the chief political strategist and my advice is: Every time they yell something like that to you, Judge Moore, or to the campaign, just think, it’s the “Jerry Springer Show.” Don’t answer it. Judge Moore’s answered all the questions. We believe Judge Moore. We don’t believe these women. It’s just that simple. And y’all can keep trotting them out if you want to, but we’re not going to talk about that. We’re going to talk about helping Donald Trump make American great again. So y’all can quit asking us questions, quit yelling stuff, quit being rude. We’re going to say what we’re going to say. And Alabamians, don’t be tricked by this crowd.
If Moore doesn’t like having a mob of reporters jostling and elbowing and shouting unwelcome questions, you have to wonder: What does he think he’ll find in the halls of the Capitol? The suggestion that the media should just stand down is a fantasy not unlike the sorts of thoughts that have filtered through President Trump’s Twitter account — like the time that he riffed about de-licensing NBC News (an impossibility) after an unfavorable news story.
As to whether Moore has answered “all the questions,” that’s a matter of perspective. Michelle Holmes, the vice president of content for Alabama Media Group (publisher of AL.com), told the Erik Wemple Blog on Sunday, “We’re not getting any substantive interviews by reporters from the Roy Moore camp.” However, an AL.com columnist employed by a conservative think tank did manage to get written responses to some questions regarding the scandal.
Kyle Whitmire, state political columnist for the Alabama Media Group, tells this blog via email, “Before and after this scandal broke, we have made repeated requests for Moore to sit for an interview, including opportunities for a live, unedited discussion on Facebook. We also offered to host a debate between him and Doug Jones. In every case, he has either denied our requests or ignored them.”
“Instead, since the Post’s story broke, his campaign has held press conferences and campaign pep rallies at which surrogates have refused to answer questions or simply shouted at the press. In a very Trump-like way, they are leveraging the fact that live TV and streaming is cheap, and the cameras cannot bring themselves to turn away from their spectacle, giving them a way to broadcast their message far and wide.”
Now on to the Fox News thing. When Republican politicians have blasted “the media” in the past, they’ve often left a carve-out for Fox News, a conservative outlet founded by the late Roger Ailes, a famous Republican operative in his own right. Not in this case: The leading cable news provider recently released a poll in which Moore’s Democratic opponent, Doug Jones, was leading him by eight points. Here’s the lead of the story accompanying the results: “Alabama voters want a candidate who will represent their state with honor — and they think Doug Jones has strong moral character and Roy Moore doesn’t. That gives the Democrat the lead in the U.S. Senate race.”
No worries — Breitbart bashed the poll under this headline, “Democrat Oversample: Fox News Poll Claims Roy Moore Losing Despite Faulty Numbers.” Good thing there’s at least one organization that’s not trying to trick the people of Alabama.