The Slatest

How Breitbart Is Covering the Roy Moore Accusations

Alabama Republican U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore on Sassy, leaving the Gallant Fire Hall after voting in the GOP runoff election on Sept. 26.

Hal Yeager/Getty Images

One can say at least this for Breitbart’s post Monday on the latest sexual misconduct allegation against Republican Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore: It does accurately relay the details of accuser Beverly Young Nelson’s account—that at 16, she was offered a ride home from Moore, who suddenly and violently forced her face to his crotch and dissuaded her from telling anyone. But then, the piece ends with a paragraph noting the part of the news most likely to appeal to Moore’s staunchest defenders: Nelson’s lawyer Gloria Allred, courts reporter Ian Mason concludes, has been “a prominent plaintiff’s attorney and proponent [of] left-wing social causes for decades.”

Allred also pursued a lawsuit against then-presidential candidate Donald Trump, representing three women who claimed last year that he sexually assaulted them. Around the same time the suit was filed, Allred was also serving as a delegate for Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention.

What reads here as a naked and lame deflection to people unsettled by the facts of the Moore controversy—five women have accused him of making advances toward them as teens, including one who alleges a sexual assault at 14—registers as a perfectly relevant aside to Breitbart’s readers. “The presence of Gloria Allred is nothing more than PROOF THIS IS A SMEAR,” one representative comment reads. “Note these ‘accusations’ are coming out of DC and New York … NOT IN ALABAMA, WHERE the ‘crime’ supposedly took place … and NOT 40 YEARS AGO, WHEN the ‘crime’ supposedly took place.”

The emergence of allegations against Roy Moore to this commenter—and all others who turn to Breitbart for news about what the Democrats, or George Soros, or the Muslims, or the Hispanics are plotting (probably together)—is the swamp’s desperate swipe at the populist right’s newest rootin’, tootin’, shootin’ folk hero, a Trumpist too Trumpian for Trump and a candidate whose primary campaign Breitbart supported unreservedly. Is fondling kids a deal-breaker for a prospective senator? Not when Democratic candidate Doug Jones, an adherent of “transgender ideology,” is defending the use of restrooms by trans people who it’s presumed—baselessly, bigotedly—might fondle kids.

This has been the backdrop of everything Breitbart has published on the controversy since the website scooped the Washington Post on its Moore expose. Its initial piece on Moore’s troubles—breathlessly titled “After Endorsing Democrat in Alabama, Bezos’s Washington Post Plans to Hit Roy Moore With Allegations of Inappropriate Relations With Teenagers; Judge Claims Smear Campaign”—carried a pre-buttal from Moore calling the Post’s reporting “fake news.” That article also highlighted details that Breitbart’s Aaron Klein deemed exculpatory. Deborah Gibson, one of Moore’s accusers, “characterized Moore as being romantic, reading poetry to her, and playing the guitar,” he noted. The same day the story broke, Breitbart senior editor-at-large Joel Pollak avoided the Casanova defense in an appearance on MSNBC Live with Ali Velshi, but he nevertheless suggested that there was nothing untoward about Moore going after teenagers:

Pollak: You said yourself at the start of the segment he’s being accused of relationships with teenagers. To me that’s not accurate. In fact, it’s following in a narrative that the Post tried to set up—

Velshi: But, it is. It is teenagers. It’s a 14-year-old, a 16-year-old, and I think two 18-year-olds. They’re teenagers.

Pollak: The 16-year-old and the 18-year-old have no business in that story, because those are women of legal age of consent at the time.

“[A]s far as we know, there’s only one relationship that’s been alleged that’s problematic,” Pollak concluded. That would be the alleged assault of then–14-year-old Leigh Corfman, the details of which Pollak elected not to expand upon.

The next day, Aaron Klein compiled Facebook posts from Gibson in an article that underlined her opposition to both Moore and President Trump, including one post featuring a video by Moore’s opponent Doug Jones and a photo of Gibson with Joe Biden, for whom she had done sign-language interpretation during a campaign appearance. “Alabama Accuser Deletes Anti-Moore Postings From Facebook,” the headline read. One might interpret Gibson’s motivation for deleting the posts as concern that her politics might distract from her story: Moore, then 34, dated her at 17 and on one occasion kissed her in his bedroom. But not Breitbart. Klein sees this as further evidence that the swamp’s residents have targeted Moore for character assassination. “At one point, in February,” Klein shudders, Gibson’s cover image on Facebook was a banner that read “Resist.”

Washington’s Republicans, Breitbart suggests, are also eager participants in the conspiracy, and are to be discredited. “Mitch McConnell Leads Establishment Republicans in Effort to Push Roy Moore Out of Alabama Race,” reads a headline atop a list of Republican senators who have called on Moore to drop out. Slightly less than half of a post about a call by “failed presidential candidate” Mitt Romney for the same is simply a description of the Obama campaign’s 2012 ad that highlighted Bain Capital’s destructive and lucrative management of GST Steel.

Breitbart’s reporting arm, to be fair, has brought a few newer bits of information to the table. It ran four “exclusives” on the controversy on Sunday, including the announcement that Moore plans to sue the Washington Post—an announcement made at an event closed to all outlets but Breitbart—and an interview with Moore’s wife, who denied the accusations against him. “At every campaign event this cycle—and Breitbart News has personally covered dozens of them in the primary, runoff, and general election—Kayla Moore has joined her husband,” Breitbart’s Matthew Boyle wrote. The subsequent sentences remind readers that the two met at Bible study and have several children and grandchildren. Boyle doesn’t say whether Moore would consider any of dating age.

The other two exclusives contain excerpts from an interview with Nancy Wells, Leigh Corfman’s mother. Wells told Breitbart that, contrary to the account given to the Post, Corfman didn’t have a phone in her bedroom and thus couldn’t have talked to Moore from it. The piece implies that this alleged inconsistency is fatal for a story that “relies heavily on Corfman’s memory and her ability to recount events consistently.” Now, if Breitbart reporters turn up evidence that Corfman has misremembered or fabricated some of the key facts of her story—that, on one occasion, Moore undressed her when she 14 years old and placed her hand on his underwear—they’ll have a real scoop indeed. Until then, they’ll have to settle for revelations like a phone being in a different room—or another tidbit from their interview with Wells: the bombshell that the Post’s reporters approached Corfman for an interview:

Corfman’s mother, Wells, told Breitbart News that reporters for the Washington Post convinced her daughter to give them an interview.

“She did not go to them,” said Wells. “They called her.”

“They tried to convince her to do it?” this reporter asked.

“Yes,” replied Wells, matter-of-factly.

Wells was asked about Corfman’s motivations for going public. “It wasn’t done for politics, you know,” Wells replied.  “It was done for personal reasons. And it wouldn’t have been done if the reporters hadn’t contacted my daughter.”

Breitbart’s bewilderment at some of the basic processes of journalism is understandable. This is, after all, a publication that dedicates a considerable amount of space to lauding the activities and pronouncements of its own executive chairman Steve Bannon, who has evidently taken a break from issuing warnings about the degradation of Western values to defend an accused pedophile. A post published the day after the Post story consisted almost entirely of CBS News’ report on Bannon’s speech at a New Hampshire fundraiser, during which he dismissed the “the Bezos-Amazon-Washington Post” as a “part of the apparatus of the Democratic Party.” Another post’s headline announces, “Bannon: Republican Establishment and Media Launched a ‘Weaponized Hit on Judge Moore’ ” before what amounts to a 1,500-word transcript of an interview between Bannon and his employee, Breitbart’s Alex Marlow, in which Bannon, predictably, accuses the mainstream press of having it in for Moore. “Here’s the great thing about the internet, and places like Breitbart and others,” he says. “You can’t fool people anymore. The information can get out there. People will make their own judgment.”

“Bannon,” the post continues, “described the Breitbart News Daily model as presenting the facts and allowing the audience to form their own opinions producing a caller-driven radio show.”

The Moore story, all in all, is just another rotation in Breitbart’s perfect ouroboros of conspiratorial thinking and self-confirmation. Perhaps fortunately for Bannon and crew, Breitbart’s former tech editor Milo Yiannopoulos—who has argued 13-year-olds are capable of sexual consent—isn’t on hand to offer his thoughts; he and Bannon have had a falling out about revelations about Milo’s communications with white nationalists, which made the subtext of the site’s dog-whistling xenophobia text. Yiannopoulos’ or another writer’s provocative affirmative defense of sexually pursuing children would’ve overshadowed the message that Breitbart is more interested in pushing: This Moore story, like all stories, is ultimately about the swamp.