There’s an automated phone call going around Alabama that claims to be from a Washington Post reporter seeking more information about Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore. But the robocall, which features the name of a non-existent reporter and purports to offer four-figure cash payments for interviews about the former state supreme-court judge, is a hoax.
The call was first reported by WKRG, the CBS affiliate in Mobile. In it, the voice making the call says:
Hi, this is Bernie Bernstein, I’m a reporter for the Washington Post calling to find out if anyone at this address is a female between the ages of 54 to 57 years old willing to make damaging remarks about candidate Roy Moore for a reward of between $5000 and $7000 dollars. We will not be fully investigating these claims however we will make a written report. I can be reached by email at email@example.com, thank you.
There are a few big, obvious falsehoods here: There is no journalist at the Washington Post by that name. Secondly, the newspaper explicitly prohibits paying sources. And why would the Post, which has spoken to dozens of people about Moore’s past, only take cursory notes on new interviews?
But the Post has been a target of other hoaxes and lies since last Thursday, when it published a deeply reported story about four women who accuse Moore of molesting them in the 1970s, while they were high-school students and Moore was a 30-something assistant district attorney in Gadsden, Alabama. A fifth woman came forward with similar allegations on Monday.
“The Post has just learned that at least one person in Alabama has received a voicemail from someone falsely claiming to be from the Washington Post,” the paper’s executive editor, Marty Baron, says in statement emailed to Washingtonian. “The call’s description of our reporting methods bears no relationship to reality. We are shocked and appalled that anyone would stoop to this level to discredit real journalism.”
Moore’s campaign in solid-Republican Alabama has sputtered since the Post‘s report, with Senate Republicans dropping their support for him as he hasn’t denied kissing or “dating” teenage girls more than a decade younger than him.
The robocall reported Tuesday is not the only instance of someone attempting to perpetrate a hoax about the Washington Post‘s reporting. Not long after the original story’s publication, a Twitter account called @umpire43 posted a message claiming that a Post reporter named “Beth” had offered an Alabama woman $1,000 to “accuse Roy Moore.” (The Post‘s story was written by Stephanie McCrummen, Beth Reinhard, and Alice Crites.) The tweet was shared by the far-right website Gateway Pundit and coursed through Moore-supporting social media. It actually wound up on television Friday when the right-wing channel One America News Network read @umpire43’s tweet as the authentic word of a “former Secret Service agent and Navy veteran,” then showed a photo of Reinhard.
The Twitter account, which promoted a variety of other conspiracy theories and fake stories, has since been deleted. On Tuesday, the Daily Beast reported that the person behind @umpire43 had been using the identity of a Navy SEAL killed in action in 2007.
One America News Network has not retracted the segment, and declined requests for an interview.