Sting Operation Targets Washington Post in the Roy Moore Scandal
The Washington Post has released an exposé of a sting operation against the newspaper by the conservative “anti-corruption” nonprofit organization Project Veritas. The Post reports that the plan involved a woman named Jaime T. Phillips lying to the paper about being sexually targeted by U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore of Alabama. Phillips allegedly was trying to discredit the women who have claimed to be victims of Moore, and the broader aim of the sting was to help get Moore elected.
At least nine women have claimed that Moore, who is running for the Senate seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, preyed on them when they were teenagers decades ago, and The New Yorker reported that Moore, now 70, was banned from a mall when he was in his 30s because of his predatory behavior. Moore, who has denied all the allegations, has accused the mainstream media of launching a smear campaign against him.
According to The Post, Phillips approached one of its reporters, Beth Reinhard, claiming she had been raped by Moore as a teen and became pregnant, and that he had gotten her an abortion. However, fact-checking revealed inconsistencies in her story. She was also seen visiting Project Veritas headquarters in New York, which indicated to the Post that the woman might be seeking to discredit the newspaper.
The Washington Post continues:
After Phillips was observed entering the Project Veritas office, The Post made the unusual decision to report her previous off-the-record comments.
“We always honor ‘off-the-record’ agreements when they’re entered into in good faith,” said Martin Baron, The Post’s executive editor. “But this so-called off-the-record conversation was the essence of a scheme to deceive and embarrass us. The intent by Project Veritas clearly was to publicize the conversation if we fell for the trap. Because of our customary journalistic rigor, we weren’t fooled, and we can’t honor an ‘off-the-record’ agreement that was solicited in maliciously bad faith.”
Phillips’s arrival at the Project Veritas office capped a weeks-long effort that began only hours after The Post published an article on Nov. 9 that included allegations that Moore once initiated a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old named Leigh Corfman.
Post reporter Beth Reinhard, who co-wrote the article about Corfman, received a cryptic email early the next morning.
“Roy Moore in Alabama . . . I might know something but I need to keep myself safe. How do we do this?” the apparent tipster wrote under an account with the name “Lindsay James.”
The email was received amid verbal attacks on The Washington Post and its reporters by Moore supporters. The same day, a conservative site called Gateway Pundit spread a story from a now-deleted Twitter account with a history of spreading misinformation—@umpire43—that said, “A family friend in Alabama just told my wife that a WAPO reporter named Beth offer her 1000$ to accuse Roy Moore.” A pastor in Alabama said he received a voicemail from a man who claimed to be a Post reporter seeking women “willing to make damaging remarks” about Moore for compensation. The Washington Post said it knew of no such calls.
The details reported in the Post article suggest that Project Veritas intended to trick the paper into printing an allegation of rape, then reveal that the newspaper’s informant had been lying. This would have humiliated the Post, discredited the accusations against Moore and given a boost to his candidacy days before the Dec. 12 election.
The Post continues:
In the days that followed the purported tipster’s initial emails, Reinhard communicated with the woman through an encrypted text messaging service and spoke by phone with the person to set up a meeting. When the woman suggested a meeting in New York, Reinhard told her she would have to know more about her story and her background. The woman offered that her real name was Jaime Phillips. …
Phillips also repeatedly asked the reporter to guarantee her that Moore would lose the election if she came forward. Reinhard told her in a subsequent text message that she could not predict what the impact would be. Reinhard said she also explained to Phillips that her claims would have to be fact-checked. Additionally, Reinhard asked her for documents that would corroborate or support her story.
Reinhard noticed inconsistencies in Phillips’ story. Phillips said she lived in Alabama for only a summer while a teenager, but the cellphone number Phillips provided had an Alabama area code. The Post called the company at which the woman claimed to work but was told no one named Jaime Phillips worked there. A Post researcher then found a GoFundMe fundraising page listed under Phillips’ name, requesting donations to help her move to New York “to work in the conservative media movement to combat the lies and deceipt [sic] of the liberal MSM. I’ll be using my skills as a researcher and fact-checker to help our movement. I was laid off from my mortgage job a few months ago and came across the opportunity to change my career path.” One of the donations was made by a woman with the same name as Phillips’ daughter.
This lined up with Project Veritas’ call for applications in March for “undercover reporters” who would be asked “to adopt an alias persona, gain access to an identified person of interest and persuade that person to reveal information.” Project Veritas has not confirmed that Phillips was part of a sting operation.
Harvard doctorate student Clint Smith perhaps said it best on Twitter on Tuesday: “I really don’t know how devoid of morality you have to be to fake a story about rape in order to discredit actual victims of sexual assault in order to put a serial pedophile in the senate”—especially given that many of the women who have come forward with stories of harassment by Moore have faced a torrent of abuse.
The Washington Post has made available the full exchange between its reporter and Phillips: