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Washington Post claims woman came to them with false Roy Moore abuse story in bizarre plot to discredit newspaper

Post editor says 'journalistic rigour' helped reporters see through story

Jeremy B. White
San Francisco
Tuesday 28 November 2017 08:52 GMT
A view of the Washington Post's then-newsroom in Washington, DC on August 5, 2013
A view of the Washington Post's then-newsroom in Washington, DC on August 5, 2013 (REUTERS/Stelios Varias)

A woman who approached the Washington Post with a false tale of a sexual liaison with Senate candidate Roy Moore was working for an organisation that seeks to discredit journalists, the Post reported.

Reporting by the Post has upended an Alabama Senate race that Mr Moore, a conservative former judge, was an overwhelming favourite to win.

After the Post reported that Mr Moore allegedly engaged in sexual misconduct with a 14-year-old and made advances on two other teenage girls when he was in his 30s, multiple women have accused Mr Moore of past sexual misconduct.

Mr Moore has strenuously denied the allegations, saying in a statement that “I have never engaged in sexual misconduct”. He has slammed the Post’s reporting as false, and his wife Kayla Moore has said the paper prints “whatever anyone says without even checking to see if it is correct”.

That does not appear to have been the case when a woman approached Post reporters with she a story of having been impregnated by Mr Moore when she was 15 years old.

The woman, who gave her name as Jaime Phillips, said Mr Moore had encouraged her to get an abortion after — a significant claim given his status as a devout Christian and a social conservative. She also sought assurances that publishing her story would ensure Mr Moore lost the election, according to the Post.

But sceptical Post reporters uncovered discrepancies in Ms Phillips’ account, including a GoFundMe page for someone of the same name seeking money for a move to New York so she could “work in the conservative media movement to combat the lies and deceipt [sic] of the liberal” mainstream media.

That page helped convince Post reporters that Ms Phillips was in fact working for Project Veritas, an organization that seeks to expose what it calls media bias by with undercover recordings of interactions with journalists and left-leaning groups.

A reporter challenged Ms Phillips in a subsequent meeting and an editor with the conservative outlet she claimed to have been referencing in the GoFundMe posting, the Daily Caller, said there was no record of her having interviewed there.

Roy Moore says he doesn't 'generally' remember dating teenage girls while in his 30s

Journalists also saw Ms Phillips entering Project Veritas’ New York office. The organisation’s founder, James O’Keefe, declined to answer questions from Post reporters.

The episode prompted the Post to take the unusual move of reporting on a conversation that was off-the-record. Post executive editor Martin Baron justified the move by saying that Ms Phillips had not sought an off-the-record talk in “good faith”.

“This so-called off-the-record conversation was the essence of a scheme to deceive and embarrass us,” Mr Baron said in a statement. “The intent by Project Veritas clearly was to publicise the conversation if we fell for the trap. Because of our customary journalistic rigour, we weren’t fooled, and we can’t honour an ‘off-the-record’ agreement that was solicited in maliciously bad faith.”

Despite a series of allegations of inappropriate sexual or social conduct towards women - including three who were aged 14 to 28 - Donald Trump has continued to express support for Mr Moore.

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