- Callum Borchers The Washington Post
In the final weeks of the U.S. Senate race in Alabama, Breitbart News strained to discredit Leigh Corfman, who accused Republican Roy Moore of sexually touching her when she was 14 and he was 32. The far-right website published non-scoops — Corfman didn't have a phone in her bedroom! Corfman moved in with her father 12 days after meeting Moore! — as if they somehow made her account less believable.
Now, Breitbart editor in chief Alex Marlow tells CNN that he actually did believe Corfman. Here's an excerpt from Oliver Darcy's report:
"Marlow also stressed that he was personally uncomfortable with the behavior attributed by The Post to Moore, and noted that he did believe the accusations from Leigh Corfman, who said Moore assaulted her while she was 14 — they were 'not perfect,' he said, but had 'a lot of credibility.' "
Marlow described Moore, whom Breitbart defended relentlessly, as a "weak candidate" and a "uniquely terrible candidate."
Marlow's sudden candor suggests that Breitbart's coverage of Moore after the accusations was a grand performance. The site's top editor thought that Moore had indeed preyed on a teenage girl and considered the former Alabama chief justice a lousy politician, yet Breitbart sent the opposite message to its audience.
Why? Here's a bit more from Darcy:
"Marlow said one of the factors in Breitbart's coverage of the allegations against Moore is that, he believes, the news media was trying to use them to set a bar on sexual misconduct 'that President Trump cannot match.' "
" 'I think they want to create a standard where President Trump, either from past or future accusations, will not be able to match whatever standard is now in place for who can be a United States senator,' he said. 'Based off not any sort of conviction or any sort of admission of guilt, but based off of purely allegations.' "
" 'I think that's the playbook here,' he added. 'And I think it's part of the reason why it was so important for Breitbart to continue our coverage of the way we covered it . . . and for Steve [Bannon], in particular, to hold the line the way he did for — I think part of it is because it's not just about Judge Moore, it is not even just about establishment, anti-establishment. It's about what's coming next for President Trump.' "
If we're talking about cold calculations, Breitbart's strategy made some sense. But it was just that — a strategy. Marlow's interview with Darcy is one of the clearest indications that Breitbart, at its core, is more of an advocacy organization than a news outlet.
The site's coverage of Moore was not about evaluating his actions or fitness for office but about helping Trump. The goal was to keep the bar for elected officials' conduct low enough for Trump to clear. Breitbart also positioned itself to defend the president against the "past or future accusations" Marlow referenced; after all, it would appear hypocritical to stand by Trump after abandoning Moore.