A conservative organization attempted to embarrass The Washington Post by enlisting a woman to make false accusations against Republican Senate hopeful Roy Moore of Alabama. The attempt to undercut the media outlet's reporting on allegations of sexual misconduct against Moore backfired when the newspaper found holes in the woman's story.
On Nov. 27, The Washington Post disclosed that a woman named Jaime Phillips had approached it with a false accusation against Moore. Phillips told reporters that Moore had a sexual relationship with her when she was 15 years old in 1992, impregnated her and then pressured her to seek an abortion.
The newspaper had broken a story of four women alleging sexual misconduct against Moore, who is currently vying for a U.S. Senate seat in the upcoming Alabama special election. On Nov. 8, Leigh Corfman alleged Moore molested her in 1979, when she was 14 years old.
On Nov. 13, Beverly Young Nelson alleged that Moore sexually assaulted her in 1977 after offering her a ride home, reports The New York Times. She was 16 years old at the time.
Moore has denied all of the allegations.
Journalists from The Washington Post interviewed Phillips and then investigated her allegation. Their fact-checking process found several inconsistencies in Phillips' account, including that she had lied about her employer. They also found that Phillips had established a GoFundMe page on May 29 asking for donations to help her relocate to New York City.
"I've accepted a job to work in the conservative media movement to combat the lies and deceit of the liberal MSM," Phillips wrote in the fundraising page. "I'll be using my skills as a researcher and fact-checker to help our movement."
When journalists confronted Phillips with the fundraising page, she said that she had been recruited to work for the Daily Caller by a woman named Kathy Johnson. Further fact-checking found that no person by that name worked at the Daily Caller. Phillips then stopped talking to reporters from The Washington Post and was later seen entering the offices of Project Veritas, a tax-exempt charity that has a history of infiltrating progressive-leaning organizations under false pretenses to expose them for alleged wrongdoing.
James O'Keefe, the organization's founder and a conservative activist, refused to tell The Washington Post whether he had hired Phillips to help discredit the allegations against Moore. He declined to say whether his organization's foiled sting operation had been aided by any Republican strategists.
On Nov. 28, O'Keefe forwarded an email to Project Veritas supporters that indicated he had hired Phillips to lie to The Washington Post.
"Following months of undercover work within The Washington Post, our investigative journalist embedded within the publication had their cover blown," O'Keefe wrote, according to CNN Money. "This is how undercover work goes. This isn't the first time that has happened, and it won't be the last time."
O'Keefe also released an edited video of a reporter for The Washington Post explaining to a Project Veritas undercover reporter that the newspaper's editorial board was biased against President Donald Trump. Editorial boards produce opinion pieces and are biased by design. They are considered separate from news reporting.
Project Veritas raised $4.8 million in donations in 2016. In 2015, Trump's personal charity donated $10,000 to the organization.
The failed sting received widespread condemnation on social media.
"Impossible to overstate the idiocy of latest O'Keefe Roy Moore 'sting,' directed at WaPo," tweeted conservative columnist Byron York of the Washington Examiner. "O'Keefe really ought to hang it up."
"To reiterate: O'Keefe hired a woman to pretend she had been sexually abused in an attempt to undermine actual victims of sexual assault and child molestation," tweeted CNN anchor Jake Tapper.
Sources: Byron York/Twitter, CNN Money, Jake Tapper/Twitter, The New York Times, The Washington Post (2) / Featured Image: Gage Skidmore/Flickr / Embedded Images: MSNBC/YouTube, GoFundMe/The Washington Post