The editor of Breitbart News says the Alabama Senate contest “represents so much beyond one race,” and that his reporters will continue to investigate the claims made by the women who have alleged that Republican nominee Roy Moore assaulted or pursued relationships with them as teenagers.
“We admit our biases,” Breitbart Editor-in-Chief Alex Marlow said. “I’ll tell you that we would like to see a populist, nationalist, America-first conservative get elected.”
“There are so many people who want Judge Moore to not become the senator from Alabama, and it’s not just Democrats, it’s the Republican establishment, it’s the media establishment,” he said. “And what happens in Alabama, either side is going to use it to claim momentum heading into 2018. It’s a hugely significant race.”
Since The Washington Post first broke news of the allegations on Thursday, Breitbart, of which former White House counselor Steve Bannon is the chairman, has stood by Moore. The site published a story with Moore’s denial before the Post even put out its original story. Its headlines have cast doubts on the Post’s motivations and focused on how its editorial page — which is unrelated to its news coverage — endorsed Moore’s opponent.
On Sunday, the site published a story headlined, “EXCLUSIVE — Mother of Roy Moore Accuser: Washington Post Reporters Convinced My Daughter to Go Public.” That story was widely criticized on Twitter by those who pointed out that persuading a source to go on the record is standard journalistic practice. Breitbart instead portrayed the reporters as engaging in “activist behavior.”
Marlow defended the story, alleging the Post has an agenda against Moore, and coordinated the accusers’ stories.
Breitbart has gone to such lengths to defend Moore that some of its writers have even declined to pass judgment on a man in his 30s having a relationship with a teenager. Marlow contended that some of Moore’s accusers were above Alabama’s legal age of consent, 16.
“That’s not my personal preference,” he said. “I met my wife when we were in high school and I haven’t dated anyone since then, so that’s not how I’m wired, but I’m not here to cast judgment on things that are legal.”
Over the weekend, Axios reported that Breitbart was sending two reporters to Alabama to attempt to further discredit the Post.
Asked whether he had dispatched the reporters, Matt Boyle and Aaron Klein, to Alabama specifically to discredit the Post’s reporting, Marlow demurred, but made clear that he had doubts about the Post’s story, which cited four women on the record making allegations against Moore.
“That’s Axios’ wording, if they happen to discredit it, that’s fine,” Marlow said. “We’re down there to get the story, to get the truth about what’s happening … We’re naturally very skeptical of The Washington Post, the timing of it is so suspicious and again we certainly believe The Washington Post has an agenda. They endorsed Judge Moore’s opponent Doug Jones.”
“There’s so much intrigue and interest on this story, it makes sense for us to dedicate resources to it,” Marlow said. “We sent two reporters. It seems like given the amount of attention that this is getting, now that I’m thinking about it, maybe I should have sent a third reporter.”
Marlow accused the Post of influencing the women’s accusations against Moore, though there is no evidence of the paper having done so, and the women’s accounts have been corroborated by other news organizations. The Breitbart editor-in-chief saw a conspiracy encompassing the Post and the Republican establishment, aimed at undermining the movement which Bannon and Breitbart have led.
“I don’t think The Washington Post, the Republican establishment, in this effort to try to take out Roy Moore, I don’t think this is about protecting young women, I don’t think it’s about sexual assault. I think this is about trying to destroy the career of Roy Moore to stop the momentum of the anti-establishment, America-first populist nationalist moment that’s taking place largely within the Republican Party,” he said. “I think that’s the motivation here and I think that’s highly relevant to the discussion.”
The Post declined to comment, though its story on Moore stipulated that its reporters had started looking into Moore’s history with teenagers only because of rumors they had picked up working on a different story. The women all told the Post on the record that none of them knew each other.
Journalism experts have praised the Post story for offering extensive details on its sourcing. Speaking earlier in the day to POLITICO, Bill Grueskin, a Columbia School of Journalism professor who previously served as one of The Wall Street Journal’s top editors, said it was like the reporters had “this checklist of how people tried to disparage or diminish a story about a politician,” Grueskin said, and “checked off each one to make sure it wouldn’t apply in this case.”
While the women’s accounts have caused Republicans such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to ditch Moore, Breitbart has held on.
“If I had to emphasize one thing,” Marlow said, “it’s that there’s a widespread perception within the Breitbart readership that this is all something that has been coordinated by the Republican establishment because they see their lives flashing before their eyes.”
He said he did not have proof, but speculated about coordination between the Post and the GOP. “The enemy of the enemy is my friend. They both want Judge Moore to lose, so they’re happy to work together,” he said.
It seemed as if Breitbart’s coverage of Mondays’s accusations by Beverly Young Nelson, who accused Moore of sexually assaulting her when she was 16, might have represented a turning point. The site’s headline even pointed out that Nelson was a Trump supporter, blaring: “Alabama woman says Roy Moore sexually assaulted her in 1997…’I thought he was going to rape me’…Gloria Allred: Trump supporter came to me.”
But asked if he believed Nelson, Marlow replied, “Not necessarily,” and focused on attorney Allred’s presence as a discrediting source.
“She came off as sincere today, but it is the sort of thing where the words were chosen so perfectly and she’s got Gloria Allred right next to her,” he said.
Marlow said that, if the stories of Nelson and Leigh Corfman, who also alleged sexual assault, “are true and Roy Moore really was a predator, particularly against children,” then “he should not be a United States senator.”
The accounts of the women who have come forward so far, though, were not enough to convince him. So what would be?
“I don’t know the answer to that. Look, I’m not Mr. Opinion guy,” he said. “I think people will know when they’ve seen enough.”