On Thursday night in New Hampshire, former Trump White House chief strategist Steve Bannon offered a simple explanation for the bombshell report in The Washington Post that Alabama Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore pursued sexual relationships with four teenagers when he was in his early 30s.
“The Bezos Amazon Washington Post that dropped that dime on Donald Trump is the same Bezos Amazon Washington Post that dropped the dime this afternoon on Judge Roy Moore,” Bannon said. “Now is that a coincidence? That’s what I mean when I say opposition party, right?”
Bannon’s argument is essentially that this is all a media conspiracy. That the media is the “opposition party” and they will say and do whatever it takes to ensure candidates with world views different than their own don’t get elected.
It’s an echo of what Moore himself said after the Post story went live: “The Washington Post has already endorsed the judge’s opponent, and for months, they have engaged in a systematic campaign to distort the truth about the judge’s record and career and derail his campaign,” read the statement in part. (The Post’s editorial board endorsed Doug Jones, Moore’s Democratic opponent. The newsgathering end of the organization has zero interaction with the editorial board.)
It’s easy for Bannon (or Moore) to make the “fake news hates conservatives” argument. Hardcore conservatives will believe it. Because they hate the media.
But if you go beyond the basic rhetoric, the logic behind the Bannon argument breaks down rapidly. And it starts to look a lot more like a conspiracy theory.
Using Bannon’s logic that the whole Moore story was cooked up by the media to get Moore, you must also believe the following things:
* The Post convinced four women, who were willing to put their names forward publicly and risk the scrutiny that comes with that decision, to lie about their interactions with Moore when they were teenagers. The Post was able to do this despite the fact that the four women did not know one another. And they did not reach out to the Post in an effort to get their stories told.
* These women created detailed stories about how they met Moore, where he took them on dates and how he sought to make the relationship more romantic or sexual.
* That these women were motivated by political dislike for Moore (or Republicans) to make up these tales. (Worth noting: Leigh Corfman, the woman at the center of The Post story, voted for the Republican nominee in each of the last three elections – including for Trump in 2016.) Or that they were paid somehow to do it. Or they just lied to lie. Or something.
* More than two dozen other people who helped corroborate the Post story were also in on this ruse. (The Post said it interviewed more than 30 people who said they knew Moore between 1977 and 1982, which is when these episodes allegedly took place.) That’s a whole lot of people to organize into a grand scheme to lie about Moore’s sexual misconduct.
Is all of that possible? I mean, I guess? But holy cow does it require a series of massive leaps.
Usually, the simplest explanation is the right one. Could that not be the case here? Sure. But, it’s a whole lot more likely that the Post story is credible than that Bannon’s theory is right.
Again, if you believe Bannon, go back and read what I wrote above. Because if you believe that this is all a targeted effort to take out Moore because of his beliefs, you need to believe all of the rest of that stuff is true too.