Roy Moore is a Steve Bannon fantasy candidate. He’s an insurgent populist, a self-described renegade who shares Bannon’s arsonist attitude toward the Republican establishment and cares little for the proprieties of D.C. Or the basic standards of a civilized society, apparently, given that two women have accused Moore of criminal sexual assault and three more say he tried to “date” them when they were teenagers and he was in his thirties.
But to Bannon, who has returned to a leadership role at Breitbart since leaving the Trump administration, deviance is working alongside Mitch McConnell, not setting a conduct bar so low that even Anthony Weiner can clear it. Bannon won’t let Moore’s odiousness stand in the way of his burn-it-down dreams: He’s a Leninist, a fire-starter, and he’s got a trick up his sleeve.
Make that two, in the form of Aaron Klein and Matthew Boyle, the reporters who together constitute Breitbart’s investigative team. Bannon has sent them down to Alabama on a mission to defend Moore and discredit the bombshell Post report from last week, and their work is already bearing fruit. Just yesterday they broke a whopping four stories, each headline beginning with a breathless “EXCLUSIVE.” Step aside, Bob and Carl — two new gunslingers just rode in.
Boyle is down in Huntsville, attached to the rotten Moore campaign like a barnacle to a garbage barge. “EXCLUSIVE — Judge Roy Moore Announces Plans to Sue Washington Post,” his first story blared. Breitbart had been given “exclusive access to the event, which was closed to the press.” No suit has actually been filed yet.
Boyle’s second story was a write-up of an interview with Moore’s wife, Kayla, who was “shocked” to hear that her husband of 32 years might be a sexual predator. How’s that for a scoop?
Klein, Breitbart’s “lead investigative reporter,” has more serious journalistic ambitions. He made a name for himself interviewing members of Hamas, and during the 2016 election he broke the story that yet another woman had accused Bill Clinton of sexual assault. So it figures that he’s in Birmingham, talking to accuser Leigh Corfman and trying to find the truth.
Or talking to her 71-year old mother, Nancy Wells, anyway, who “contradicted a key detail” of her daughter’s story in an interview with Klein. If you missed it in his 1,383-word story, the revelation is here:
Corfman clearly claimed she spoke to Moore on what she said was “her phone in her bedroom” on at least one of those occasions. The Post did not specify whether the second or third alleged calls purportedly took place on a bedroom phone.
Wells, Corfman’s mother, was asked by Breitbart News: “Back then did she have her own phone in her room or something?”
“No,” she replied matter-of-factly. “But the phone in the house could get through to her easily.”
Klein filled out the story by counting the number of times Corfman said “remember” in her interviews with the Post and quoting Moore’s denials at paragraph length. Hold off on making that call to the Pulitzer committee, though. Klein hasn’t yet discovered the length of the household’s telephone cords.
Klein’s second EXCLUSIVE, that Corfman was induced to go public by Washington Post reporters, turns on another not-so-incriminating quote from Wells. “It wasn’t done for politics, you know. It was done for personal reasons. And it wouldn’t have been done if the reporters hadn’t contacted my daughter,” she told Klein. If the Post’s reaching out to Corfman impugns their report, then why should we trust Klein’s story, which after all is based on his reaching out to Wells?
Undeterred by the fact that his scoop amounts to a confirmation of standard journalistic practice, Klein presses on. He suggests that Corfman’s “troubled background” — she’s had “three divorces, bankruptcies and a history of drug abuse” — casts doubt on her ability to remember what happened back in ’79. Divorces and bankruptcies? Incriminating? Klein might have skipped some editorial meetings.
Maybe there really was a time when these two had true journalistic ambitions. Both edited their student newspapers, and Boyle even got an M.A. in journalism from American University. But whatever their aspirations once were, Boyle and Klein have become Steve Bannon’s tools, which means they’re the property of whatever ludicrous candidate Bannon backs — and this week, it’s a man accused of preying on young and vulnerable girls.
Bannon’s bunch used to attack Republicans for being too frail when it came to standing up to the Clintons. What they meant, it turns out, was that the GOP needed candidates whose private lives are worse than Bill’s — and journalists who were taking notes when James Carville sneered that dragging a $100 bill through a trailer park would turn up all sorts of strange women.
Many Alabama voters think that Moore brings enough good to the table that it’s worth overlooking the bad, even as the bad gets worse, and worse, and worse. Breitbart is doing its best to persuade them to remain entrenched, while the party leadership has refused to go along with Moore and his predations. If Bannon wins, the Republican party will resemble a more sinister version of the Democrats circa ’96.
On second thought, maybe we should be thankful that he keeps Klein and Boyle around.