WASHINGTON (AP) — The Washington Post didn't offer money to women in exchange for their stories accusing Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore of sexually inappropriate behavior, despite a series of widely-shared articles on social media and a voicemail from an apparent impostor offering to pay for damaging information on Moore.
Several false stories about the Post and Moore's accusers began circulating online soon after the newspaper detailed the accusations against Moore. Articles based off posts from a Twitter user named Doug Lewis claim "a family friend" of his said she was offered $1,000 by a Post reporter identified only as "Beth" to accuse Moore of wrongdoing. The articles also say the conversation between the reporter and the woman was recorded, but no recording is included with the article. The Twitter account in question no longer exists.
On Tuesday, TV station WKRG interviewed Alabama pastor Al Moore who said he received a voicemail from an unknown number from someone identifying themselves as a Post reporter named Bernie Bernstein. The caller said on the message that was played for the station that he was in search of "a female between the ages of 54 to 57 years old" and "willing to make damaging remarks about candidate Roy Moore for a reward of between $5,000 and $7,000."
The caller gave an email address but a message sent to there by The Associated Press Wednesday bounced back.
The pastor said he is not related to the candidate. A spokesman for the campaign told WKRG that the candidate hadn't heard about the call.
The newspaper's executive editor, Marty Baron, said in a statement that the call's description of the Post's reporting methods "bears no relationship to reality."
"We are shocked and appalled that anyone would stoop to this level to discredit real journalism," he said.
Post spokeswoman Kris Coratti followed up on Baron's comments Wednesday, telling AP in a statement that the voicemail and the allegations are "categorically false."
"We have an explicit policy that prohibits paying sources," she said.
The Post does not have an editor or a reporter called Bernie Bernstein.
This is part of The Associated Press' ongoing effort to fact check misinformation that is shared widely online, including working with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories.