At least one Alabama resident received a voicemail Tuesday from a man calling himself “Bernie Bernstein,” a supposed Washington Post reporter offering cash in exchange for unsubstantiated allegations against U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore.
“Hi, this is Bernie Bernstein,” says a voice calling from an hidden phone number. The caller seems to affect a (terribly performed) Brooklyn accent and a slight non-rhotic speech impediment.
“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 $5,000 and $7,000,” “Bernstein” continues. “We will not be fully investigating these claims, however we will be making a written report. I can reached by email: AlBernstein@washingtonpost.com. Thank you.”
The Post said the voicemail bore “no relationship to reality.”
In a statement, the paper’s executive editor told WKRG, which aired a recording of the call: “The Post has just learned that at least one person in Alabama has received a call from someone falsely claiming to be from The Washington Post. 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.”
The call even made its way onto cable TV Wednesday, when a lawyer representing Roy Moore, Trenton Garmon, told MSNBC’s Ali Velshi and Stephanie Ruhle: “Robocalls are now even being made asking for people to come forward against Roy, which I think is kind of an indication of the political climate that we’re in. And we plan on even probably getting into some depositions related to that.”
Ruhle objected: “Are you sure that robocall you’re speaking of is a fact and is true?”
“I don’t know who they were put in place by,” Garmon admitted. They moved on.
The Washington Post first reported last week on four women who alleged Roy Moore pursued relationships with them when they were teenagers, including one woman who claimed Moore, 32 at the time, initiated a sexual encounter with her when she was 14.
On Monday, Beverly Young Nelson alleged Moore sexually assaulted her when she was 16. At a press conference, she showed a copy of her high school yearbook, which Moore apparently signed with “Love, Roy Moore D.A.” Moore has denied knowing the woman, in addition to denying all wrongdoing.
Still, his campaign has appeared desperate at times to discredit the accusers and shore up support among his base.
Moore’s wife, Kayla, incorrectly alleged that the restaurant at which Nelson said Moore was her customer did not exist in 1977. (It did, reporters later showed.)
She also circulated a letter purportedly signed by 52 pastors expressing their support of Moore despite the allegations. However, several of the listed signatories have since claimed that they were not asked permission to be included on the letter, and have requested their names be removed.
Moore himself has threatened to sue the Post — he hasn’t yet — and on Tuesday said he was in a “spiritual battle” as his campaign rounded its last corner. He initially called the Post’s report “completely false” and “a desperate political attack by the National Democrat Party and the Washington Post.”