Minutes before the Washington Post on Thursday published a bombshell report detailing allegations by a woman who claims Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore sexually assaulted her when she was 14, the Steve Bannon-directed outlet Breitbart News ran a story that spotlighted Moore's denials of the claims against him and attempted to "undermine the Post's credibility."
"The story detailed some of the allegations, but with a distinct twist," notes Business Insider's Maxwell Tani. "Breitbart included five paragraphs of denials from Moore, which were placed above many of the details of the allegations."
Headlined "After Endorsing Democrat in Alabama, Bezos's Washington Post Plans to Hit Roy Moore with Allegations of Inappropriate Relations with Teenagers; Judge Claims Smear Campaign," Breitbart's piece more closely resembles a "press release" for Moore than a news story, argued the Washington Post's Aaron Blake.
David Uberti of Splinter News echoed Blake, calling the piece "transparently disgusting spin."
"Breitbart News obtained details of the forthcoming Post story"— Aaron Blake (@AaronBlake) November 9, 2017
"Roy Moore's campaign asked us to do a preemptive press release for them"
According to the Post's account of the allegations, Moore approached 14-year-old Leigh Corfman in 1979 when she was sitting outside of an Etowah County, Alabama courtroom with her mother in 1979. Moore offered to watch Corfman while her mother went inside the courtroom for a child custody hearing, and proceeded to ask her for her phone number.
Just days later, the Post reports, Moore
picked her up around the corner from her house in Gadsden, drove her about 30 minutes to his home in the woods, told her how pretty she was and kissed her. On a second visit, she says, he took off her shirt and pants and removed his clothes. He touched her over her bra and underpants, she says, and guided her hand to touch him over his underwear.
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"I wanted it over with—I wanted out," she remembers thinking. "Please just get this over with. Whatever this is, just get it over." Corfman says she asked Moore to take her home, and he did.
Two of Corfman's childhood friends say she told them at the time that she was seeing an older man, and one says Corfman identified the man as Moore. Wells says her daughter told her about the encounter more than a decade later, as Moore was becoming more prominent as a local judge.
Three other women have also alleged that Moore pursued them when they were between the ages of 16 and 18, the Post reported. One of the women, Wendy Miller, said Moore first approached her when she was 14 and began asking her on dates when she was 16.
Lawmakers were quick to respond to the allegations, and many Republicans called on Moore to step down as the party's Senate nominee.
"If there is any truth at all to these horrific allegations, Roy Moore should immediately step aside as a Senate candidate," Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said in a statement.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called the allegations "deeply disturbing and disqualifying."
"He should immediately step aside and allow the people of Alabama to elect a candidate they are proud of," McCain wrote on Twitter.
Moore has been labeled a "bigot" and a "theocratic crackpot" for his record as an Alabama Supreme Court judge.
In 2003, Moore garnered national attention when he had a 5,280-pound monument of the 10 Commandments built inside Alabama's state judicial building. He has also suggested that Muslims should be barred from serving in Congress and that homosexuality should be outlawed.