From the Tuesday edition of the Morning Jolt:
The Unforced Error of Doubling Down on a Bad Decision
When we make a consequential mistake, usually the best thing to do is be upfront about it, admit it, think hard about how we came to make that mistake, and try to make amends.
Often our instincts will tell us to double down.
For some reason, James O’Keefe and his gang at Project Veritas must have been quite convinced that the Washington Post’s reporting about Roy Moore was shoddy and rushed.
The Post reporters spoke to four accusers and two childhood friends of the youngest accuser; both said the accuser described the encounter years earlier (before Moore was running for Senate) and one said the accuser named Moore specifically. The newspaper said it interviewed the youngest accuser six times and her story remained consistent. The Post was able to determine that none of the accusers had donated to his rival, Doug Jones, or his primary rivals. The Post reporters were able to confirm that the youngest accuser’s mother attended a hearing at the Etowah County courthouse in February 1979 through divorce records, and that Moore’s office was down the hall from the courtroom.
To a lot of eyes, the Post article looked as thoroughly reported as possible. Moore denied the allegations, but did not really offer any specific contrary evidence. In fact, he backtracked from his blanket denial, telling Sean Hannity, “I don’t remember going out on dates. I knew her as a friend. If we did go out on dates then we did. But I do not remember that.” Then he offered another blanket denial.
Some Moore supporters argued that Corfman’s credibility is unreliable because of her three divorces and a messy financial history that involves filing for bankruptcy several times. (Needless to say, no fan of Donald Trump should be discounting anyone’s credibility because of life events like that.)
Moore’s wife, Kayla, shared a Facebook post claiming that the restaurant that the latest accuser says was the site of her meeting with Moore did not exist in the late 1970s, that it opened in 2001; thus the accuser’s story cannot be true. That claim is false; the restaurant existed in the late 70s, judging from business records and advertisements in newspapers at the time.
To believe Moore’s version, you have to believe that all four of these women decided to lie when the Washington Post showed up at their door, that they all spontaneously made up a story that they were able to recount in detail in multiple retellings to reporters over a period of weeks, and they all chose to make up similar stories about Moore’s sexual pursuit.
For some reason, the Veritas team believed that if they had a person claiming to be a victim of Moore reach out to the Post, the newspaper would rush the story to print, without investigating the details.
The woman e-mailed and texted the Post reporter, claiming a sordid and false tale of Moore impregnating her, then driving her to another state to have an abortion. The reporter asked if there were any documents to verify these events. The Post started to find discrepancies in the Veritas woman’s account:
Phillips had said she lived in Alabama only for a summer while a teenager; but the cellphone number Phillips provided had an Alabama area code. Reinhard called NFM Lending in Westchester County, but they said a person named Jaime Phillips did not work there.
Alice Crites, a Post researcher who was looking into Phillips’s background, found the document that strongly reinforced the reporters’ suspicions: a Web page for a fundraising campaign by someone with the same name. It was on the website GoFundMe.com under the name Jaime Phillips.
“I’m moving to New York!” the May 29 appeal said. “I’ve accepted a job to work in the conservative media movement to combat the lies and deceipt 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 two donations listed on the site was from a name that matched her daughter’s, according to public records.
When the Post reporter asked Phillips about this, she claimed she had been interviewing at the Daily Caller. Nothing about that story checked out, either. When confronted about the discrepancies, Phillips quickly departed.
James O’Keefe should publicly acknowledge that no matter how much he may dislike the Post, they did what they were supposed to do in this situation. They did not rush Phillips’ unverified claims into print. They sought to verify as much of Phillips’ story as they could, and when they could not, they did not print it. Perhaps all of the Washington Post reporters involved in this story loathe Roy Moore. But they have now proven that they’re not willing to print unverified rumors about him.
At any point, did it cross the minds of anyone at Project Veritas that if the Post had run Phillips story, that some people might have concluded Moore had committed the act of securing the abortion, even after O’Keefe appeared and demonstrated that his organization had arranged the whole hoax?
If you truly believe the Post has wronged Roy Moore, there’s a better way to achieve justice: find a discrepancy, contradiction, or impossibility in the accounts of Moore’s accusers.
We all rightfully disdain hoax hate crimes. Just how different is it to make a false claim of statutory rape, hoping to fool a reporter into running a false story? If an effort like this blows up in your face, don’t you have an obligation to come clean and offer a full accounting of who this occurred?
This morning, as of this writing, the Project Veritas web site has nothing about Phillips or her false claims. Instead there’s video of one of O’Keefe’s undercover reporters, talking with Washington Post staff inside the newsroom, with National Security Reporter Dan Lamothe saying of the paper’s editorial page, “They definitely don’t like Trump. I mean here’s the thing though. There’s the news side that’s just trying to critically call bull**** when there’s bull****, but also give him credit where there’s credit, you know? When something is good, and he’s doing more things bad, but he’s doing some of the things good.”
Where’s the news there? Where’s the scandal?
In Roman mythology, Veritas was the goddess of Truth. How well can you serve truth by lying?
And how are you serving Truth when you refuse to even address your mistakes?