The Washington Post on Wednesday detailed intimidation tactics used against individuals who have come forward as sources in news articles about U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore, and against the news organizations themselves.
The Post and AL.com, among other outlets, have reported on several women who claimed Moore pursued inappropriate relationships with them as teenagers when he was in his 30s. In one case, Leigh Corfman alleged Moore attempted to initiate sexual contact with her when she was 14.
Beverly Young Nelson on Monday claimed that Moore sexually assaulted her when she was 16. On Wednesday, the Post reported on Gena Richardson’s allegation that Moore gave her an unwanted kiss when she was a high school student, after a date.
Moore has denied any wrongdoing.
Both the Post and AL.com have received threats of legal action from Moore’s campaign, though Moore hasn’t actually followed through with lawsuits.
The Post reported Wednesday that Blake Usry, a named source for one AL.com story, received “threatening phone calls and Facebook messages, as well as texts informing him that he had been sued for defamation.” (The U.S. attorney referenced in the anonymous texts, Jay Town, called the the anonymous threat “patently absurd.”)
“It could be a religious zealot, some right-wing nut, someone from Roy Moore’s campaign, I don’t know,” Usry said. “It doesn’t intimidate me, but it’s caused me misery all day long.”
The Post also reported Wednesday that the texts to Usry came from an anonymous number created Tuesday through the temporary phone number generating company Bandwidth.com. Bandwidth shut down the number Wednesday after the Post contacted the company.
One Moore adviser, Dean Young, alleged separately that the Post itself might be behind a bogus voicemail from “Bernie Bernstein” a man claiming to be a Post reporter but offering money for unverified smears against Moore.
“Who says you all aren’t paying someone to do that?” he told the Post. “Go pay more people to say stuff. It’s a waste of money because people here know Judge Moore and we know he does believe in a Christian God, so that fake stuff doesn’t work with us.”
“The response to our meticulously reported story about Roy Moore has been a stunning level of deceit, deception and dirty tricks,” the Post’s executive editor, Marty Baron, said in a statement published by the paper. “The Moore campaign and others have lied about our motives and lied about our methods. And at least one individual — we’re still not sure who — has also pretended to be a Post journalist so as to falsely portray our journalistic practices.”
Also on Wednesday, Roy Moore’s wife, Kayla Moore, accused a Post reporter in a Facebook post of “calling and harassing anyone that has had any contact with me, my husband, and other family members.” She posted the reporter’s cell phone number. One commenter posted a picture of the reporter’s résumé, which included her address.
In an email to TPM Wednesday, a Post spokesperson confirmed that the Post reporter to whom Moore was referring was real, and that she was working on a profile of Kayla Moore, “not unlike other stories we’ve done about spouses of high-profile candidates.”
“As part of that reporting, The Post has reached out to many people by phone, email and through social media,” the spokesperson, Kristine Coratti Kelly, wrote. “As you can see from the reporter’s message, it is a straightforward, respectful request for an interview.”
Shortly after her initial post about the Post’s reporter, Kayla Moore published a link on Facebook: The Moore campaign had added a page to its website for Alabamians to “report inappropriate news organization contact.”