He said he was a Washington Post reporter offering a reward for dirt on Roy Moore. It wasn't true.
November 15 at 6:26 AM
Roy Moore speaks at a church revival on Tuesday in Jackson, Ala. (Brynn Anderson/AP)
A pastor in Alabama said he received a voice mail Tuesday from a man falsely claiming to be a reporter with The Washington Post and seeking women âwilling to make damaging remarksâ about Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore in exchange for money.
The call came days after The Post reported on allegations that Moore initiated a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old girl nearly four decades ago, sparking calls by leading Republicans for him to abandon his campaign for the U.S. Senate in a special election to be held Dec. 12.
Pastor Al Moo re of Creola, Ala., said he received the call on his cellphone a little after 7 a.m. Tuesday from a private number, which he did not answer.
The caller, claiming to be âBernie Bernstein,â left a 27-second voice mail, which Moore played for local CBS affiliate WKRG.
âIâm 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,â the caller said in the voice mail.
The caller said he would not be âfully investigating these claimsâ but would make a written report.
He said he could be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Moore, the pastor, said he mentioned the call to a couple members of his church and quickly realized that it didnât add up.
The caller first referred to himself as âBernieâ and then later gave his name as âAl.â There are no Washington Post reporters or editors named Bernie Bernstein or Al Bernstein.
Moore also sent an email to the address left in the voice mail, and it bounced back.
[Roy Mooreâs wife just posted a letter of support from evangelical pastors. It may be old.]
Mooreâs church, the Fountain Of Faith Baptist Church, posted on Facebook Tuesday morning about a call from an âAl Bernstein at The Washington Post. Hmmmm.â
Martin Baron, The Postâs executive editor, said the callerâs reporting methods bear âno relationship to reality.â
âThe 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,â Baron said in a statement. âThe callâs description of our reporting methods bears no relationship to reality. We are shocked and app alled that anyone would stoop to this level to discredit real journalism.â
John Rogers, a spokesman for Roy Mooreâs Senate campaign, could not be immediately reached by The Post. But he told WKRG reporter Bill Riales that he hadnât previously heard about the call.
Al Moore, the pastor, told Riales that he is in no way related to Roy Moore, though they share the same last name.
The pastor said he thought the voice mail was from a robo-call meant to stir up an already divisive race, and he reached out to WKRG because âpeople are just going crazy with this.â
âLetâs let the people who are investigating do their job and expose it if itâs real, and shut it if itâs not,â he said.
[In new TV ad, Alabama Democrat hits Roy Moore over âawfulâ allegations]
In The Postâs investigation, published last week, Leigh Corfman alleged that Roy Moore initiated a sexual encounter with her in 1979, when she was 14 years old and he was 32. Three other women, all on the record, have said that Roy Moore pursued them when they were between 16 and 18 years old.
A fifth woman came forward on Monday, saying Roy Moore sexually assaulted her in the 1970s when she was 16.
Since The Postâs report, the fact-checking site Snopes debunked unsubstantiated rumors that The Post paid Corfman to go on the record and accuse Roy Moore of sexual misconduct. Post spokeswoman Molly Gannon Conway called the accusation âcategorically false,â adding that The Post has âan explicit policy that prohibits paying sources.â
Neither Corfman nor any of the other women sought out The Post.
While reporting a story in Alabama about supporters of Mooreâs Senate campaign, a Post reporter heard allegations that Moore had sought relationships with teenage girls. Over the ensuing three weeks, two Post reporters contacted and interviewed the four women.
All were initially reluctant to speak publicly but chose to do so after multiple interviews, saying they thought it was important for people to know about their interactions with Moore. The women say they donât know one another.
[A short history of Roy Mooreâs controversial interpretations of the Bible]
Roy Moore has repeatedly denied the allegations, and has showed no indication that he intends to bow out of the race. Speaking at Walker Springs Road Baptist Church in rural south Alabama on Tuesday evening, the senate candidate said he knows he has âmade a few people mad.â
âIâm the only one who can unite Democrats and Republicans, because Iâm opposed by both. Theyâve done everything they could, and now they are together to try to keep me from going to Washington,â Moore said.
Voters in Alabama told The Post that they feel torn about the allegations. Some evangelicals still consider Moore a champion of their faith â" a politician willing to stand up for Christian values. But other evangel icals say the allegations force them to make an uncomfortable decision.
Al Moore, the pastor, said heâs on the fence about whether to vote for the Republican candidate.
âIâm a pastor and Iâm conservative, and so is Roy Moore â" but Iâm not dumb,â he said. âI donât know whether the guy is guilty or not. Iâm on the fence until we know more.â
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