On Tuesday, a local Alabama news station, WKRG, reported that one of its viewers had received a robocall from a reporter claiming to represent the Washington Post. The robocall revealed that the reporter's name was supposedly Lenny Bernstein and wanted dirt on Roy Moore. In fact, he even sought to pay people for accusations against the embattled Alabama Republican Senate candidate. The Post confirmed the robocall is indeed a hoax and is in no way linked to the paper.
As Slate reported, the robocall lasted about 25 seconds and was left for a local pastor. The full text of the call is as follows:
Hi, this is Lenny Bernstein, 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 dollars. We will not be fully investigating these claims however we will make a written report. I can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, thank you.
The Post responded quickly after revelations of the robocall, noting that, while the paper does employ a Lenny Bernstein as a health reporter, this robocall was not from him and is in no way linked to the paper. As The Atlantic reported, Marty Baron, the Post's executive editor, told WKRG that "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.”
Moore has been heavily discussed in the news recently following the release of aWashington Post report that detailed allegations of inappropriate behavior and sexual misconduct made by four women against Moore. The women alleged that Moore sought to date them when he was an adult and they were minors. Moore denied these allegations in a written statement, saying "These allegations are completely false and are a desperate political attack by the National Democrat Party and the Washington Post on this campaign."
As both Slate and The Atlantic pointed out, Tuesday's robocall appears to be an attempt to discredit the reporting done by the Post for the report on the allegations against Moore.
The allegations have seemingly profoundly affected Moore's campaign for Senate. Indeed, as The Atlantic noted, after a fifth woman accused Moore of sexual assault on Monday, prominent Republicans, including Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, indicated that they believe Moore should bow out of the Senate race.
Thus far, Moore has refused to exit the race and also blamed the media for "giving him trouble." While speaking at a church conference in Jackson, Alabama, on Tuesday, Moore stated, "Why do you think they're [the media] giving me this trouble? Why do you think I'm being harassed by media and by people pushing allegations in the last 28 days of the election? ... After 40-something years of fighting this battle, I'm now facing allegations and that's all the press wants to talk about ... But I want to talk about the issues. I want to talk about where this country's going"
Slate noted that, thus far, it is unclear how many households received the robocall or who funded it. Many people will surely closely be watching to see if and when more details about the funding and execution of the call emerge — and to see if Moore will publicly denounce the hoax call.