In a truly gripping real news vs. fake news face-off, The Washington Post uncovered an elaborate sting operation intended to get them to publish a false sexual accusation against Alabaman U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore.
Roy Moore, the Republican nominee for Senate in the state, already has been accused of having improper relationships with multiple women while they were teenagers. In the midst of this climate, a woman named Jaime Phillips reportedly reached out to the Post to claim that Moore impregnated her when she was 15 and convinced her to get an abortion.
The tale, The Washington Post reported, is apparently false and riddled with contradictions, and the woman is evidentially an employee of Project Veritas, a rightwing organization founded by James O’Keefe that uses undercover sting operations to embarrass and “expose” leftwing groups.
The Post never ran a story about the woman’s false claims, but they did publish a wonderful account of how they exposed her plot that should be required reading for journalism students.
“Phillips […] repeatedly asked the reporter to guarantee her that Moore would lose the election if she came forward,” the Post’s story says, in one revealing paragraph. “[The reporter, Beth] Reinhard told her in a subsequent text message that she could not predict what the impact would be. Reinhard said she also explained to Phillips that her claims would have to be fact-checked. Additionally, Reinhard asked her for documents that would corroborate or support her story.”
“Later that day, Phillips told Reinhard that she felt ‘anxiety & negative energy after our meeting,’ text messages show,” the story continues. “‘You just didn’t convince me that I should come forward,’ she wrote.”
While Phillips tried to contact another reporter at the paper, Reinhard was busy fact-checking, and found some contradictions in her story. Phillips claimed she only lived in Alabama for a short time, but she had an Alabama area code. She also was not employed at the company at which she told Reinhard she worked.
Finally, Alice Crites, a researcher for the Post, found evidence that a woman named Jaime Phillips was employed by Project Veritas: a GoFundMe.com page in which she claimed she was moving to New York because she had “accepted a job to work in the conservative media movement to combat the lies and deceipt [sic] of the liberal MSM.”
Shortly before Phillips posted the GoFundMe campaign, Project Veritas had made a job posting seeking 12 “undercover reporters” willing to “adopt an alias persona, gain access to an identified person of interest and persuade that person to reveal information.” As the Washington Post points out, these are not techniques that real journalists use.
The Post eventually confronted Phillips with the information they uncovered. She denied all claims, but stopped answering questions.
She deleted her GoFundMe page that night. A few days later, the Post saw her walking into the offices of Project Veritas.
This isn’t the first time that Project Veritas has bungled its sting operations. On Twitter, The Hill’s Will Sommer compiled a partial list.