If you read Newsmax, Huffington Post, Newsweek, the Washington Examiner, Daily Caller, Yahoo (syndicating Huffpo), RedState, or any other number of sites in the past 24 hours, you probably saw the shocking story of more than 50 Baptist (and more) pastors coming out to support GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore in the face of the latest sexual harassment allegations. In a shocking display of tribalism that shows those redneck evangelicals have no scruples or morals, pastors jointly praised Moore and encouraged Alabamans to vote for him in the coming weeks.
There’s just one problem: it’s not exactly true. All of the stories above (and more) link to one AL.com story detailing a letter posted to Roy’s wife Kayla Moore’s Facebook page that is “signed” by 53 pastors. AL.com makes it very clear that this letter is a letter the Moores repurposed, which was posted before the primary.
The initial AL.com story quoted one pastor saying she was not contacted for purposes of reposting it. The story definitely implied that the Moore family and campaign edited a previous letter of endorsement by these pastors, adding paragraphs alluding to support amidst the allegations and encouraging people to vote, and posted the endorsement again naming the signees without consulting them.
One detail from the AL.com post that is missing from every story linked above, as of the time of this writing, is that this was a repurposed letter and a pastor has already said she wasn’t contacted about it. Is that not an important journalistic detail?
Admittedly, AL.com did bury this at the bottom of their story, and had a poor initial headline of “50 Pastors Sign Letter of Support for Roy Moore.” But shouldn’t those journalistic outlets above that were aggregating the story at least read the entire post?
AL.com has since updated their story with a more accurate headline, acknowledging their real opening, and added another quote from a pastor who confirmed that he was not asked about the re-written letter and requested his name be removed from the list of endorsements.
Some Huffington Post reporters appeared to read enough of the AL.com story and letter to get names of pastors who still support Moore and get quotes. They did not have any quotes as to whether the pastors were consulted about the revised letter. Amazingly, however, they did not find (or include) pastors who did not know about the letter as AL.com had previously reported. Isn’t that interesting?
The mother of all “reporting” on this, however, was The Hill. The beltway publication completely removed a story with nearly 10,000 shares late Monday night and replaced it with a story and headline noting the letter was initially published during the primary, but failed to inform their readers that the Moore campaign had added three paragraphs and that pastors had come out saying they were not consulted about the new language.
They deleted their tweet with a misleading headline and posted a tweet to the new story with the announcement of an UPDATE. Interestingly enough, the actual text of the post does not mention that the story was updated.
Since the Moore allegations began, Twitter has become a lecture hall of blue checkmarks taking turns tut-tutting “tribalism” and ruthless partisanship. The smart set can seem to find only that one conclusion as to why any conservative would not see the well-sourced Washington Post story and subsequent allegations as disqualifying.
They sit scrolling through Twitter, mouths agape, at the audacity of Alabamans not cheering their names for their excellent reporting, saving them from a pedophilic monster. Meanwhile the average likely Republican Alabama voter is probably taking a skeptical eye to this devastatingly timed story and remembering that just a few days before the Washington Post bombshell, respected reporters were having to post multiple mea culpas for botching a simple story about Donald Trump feeding fish in a koi pond.
Democracy may die in darkness, but that’s only because quick-draw media is switching out the lights behind them every time they fumble the simplest stories, such as Trump’s remarks on the auto industry in Japan or an endorsement letter for an Alabama Senate race. And that’s just the past week.
UPDATE: Huffington Post has updated its initial article to accurately report on the AL.com story, calling it an “update” to the post, as if it is a new development that their initial reporting was inaccurate. You can view the original version of the post, as of now, at the Yahoo link, which is a syndication of their original story.