Someone in Alabama has sent out a fake robocall intended to smear The Washington Post's reporting on sexual misconduct allegations against Roy Moore by posing as a reporter named "Bernie Bernstein" who's willing to pay thousands for false testimony against the GOP Senate candidate.
According to local news station WKRG, the call seeks middle-aged women willing to make "damaging remarks" akin to the poorly-cited (and debunked) conspiracy theory that the Post paid a woman $1000 to go public with her accusation. That theory was spread by a now-deleted troll account that assumed the identity of a dead Navy SEAL to make that claim and others popular on the right-wing blogosphere.
"Hi, this is Bernie 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 $5000 and $7000 dollars," a voicemail of the robocall claimed. "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."
In a statement, Marty Baron, the Post's executive editor, denied the newspaper's involvement in the false message.
"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," Baron's statement read. "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."
Immediately after the robocall's existence was reported, Twitter users (many of them journalists) noted that the fake name given to the "reporter" seemed like an anti-Semitic dog whistle.
Adam Serwer, a senior editor at The Atlantic, tweeted that the reporter's name might be used to push the idea that the Moore allegations are a "Jewish conspiracy," another popular right-wing theory.
Looks like someone supporting Roy Moore wants to make the allegations against him sound like a Jewish conspiracy https://t.co/IFsivN6Jtu— Adam Serwer 🍝 (@Adam Serwer 🍝)1510700015.0
Others even poked fun at the clearly-fake name used to smear Moore's accusers because, as Serwer wrote in a subsequent tweet, "someone in Alabama is paying money because they think anti-Semitic canards move votes."
"'Hello. It is The Jews. We have money. We would like to eat your Christian candidate with our Passover matzo. Please telephone us,'" a tweet by Toronto Star's Washington correspondent Daniel Dale read.
"This is ridiculous," Tablet magazine's Yair Rosenberg wrote. "We didn't assign Bernie Bernstein to manufacture anti-Moore stories. He's currently rigging the Brexit talks."
Check out some of the best tweets bringing a moment of levity to this unsettling development in the Moore scandal below.
I'm surprised they didn't go with "Shlomo Jewgold" instead of the infinitely more subtle "Bernie Bernstein." https://t.co/a2drNUYm4F— Jeff B., who on earth is this guy?? (@Jeff B., who on earth is this guy??)1510698964.0
I am here for your alternate names for "Bernie Bernstein" if they really wanted to make that dog whistle sing. Keep them coming.— Ali Rogin (@Ali Rogin)1510700588.0
bernie bernstein's reporting partner woody woodward— Ariel Edwards-Levy (@Ariel Edwards-Levy)1510699280.0
So if he's email@example.com then he's really Albert Bernstein, Bernie for short? I'm confused https://t.co/KIaSLwUkvu— Nick Riccardi (@Nick Riccardi)1510699989.0
As a lesbian, having a satisfying orgasm from sex with a man was a lot like a reporter from the Washington Post see… https://t.co/CkRpRMNXA2— Marie Connor (@Marie Connor)1510700526.0
Good day to you, I am the wife of Prince Bernie Bernstein of Western Congo and I seek your good favor in assisting… https://t.co/HVPHOW1geR— Buffy's Blog (@Buffy's Blog)1510701046.0
Bernie Bernstein unmasked. Wait til Buttercup, Blossom and Bubbles find out. https://t.co/YvT6BoIbmz— Jason Markusoff (@Jason Markusoff)1510700984.0
"Hello this is Bernie Bernstein, I love Keurigs and paying taxes" https://t.co/mWGy4l3cNN— k.elizabeth (@k.elizabeth)1510700318.0