“What Trump has done is he’s personalized it and activated it to where people think the media’s going after Trump, but by going after Trump the media’s going after them,” he said.
An increasingly atomized and diverse news media has meant that consumers have more control than ever about what news sources they pay attention to. And the rise of conservative talk radio in the 1990s and conservative online media over the last decade has built a conservative media ecosystem outside of which many voters don’t stray.
Some Republicans, meanwhile, argue that members of the press are the ones to blame for the loss of credibility now on display in Alabama. “They were soft on President Obama, and they were brutal on Donald Trump,” said Ari Fleischer, who served as President George W. Bush’s press secretary. “You put those two together, and people logically conclude that the press goes easier on Democrats than it does on Republicans.”
Fleischer has called on Moore to drop out of the race, and said the reporting on the candidate’s alleged history with adolescent girls has been “solid.” But he doesn’t fault Alabama voters for being suspicious. “I’m very sympathetic to the conservative point of view that the press can’t be trusted,” he said. “I understand that. And I wish the press was more introspective about what they did to bring this upon themselves, instead of just dismissing [conservatives] as loonies.”
Similarly, Heye noted that in recent years the Duke Lacrosse scandal and a discredited Rolling Stone article about campus rape have engendered doubt in the media’s reporting on assault claims.
It remains to be seen whether Moore’s strategy of demonizing the media will be enough. But so far, his core supporters appear primed to disregard what they’re reading in the news.
At a press conference on Thursday given by religious activists supporting Moore, organizers requested that the media not ask questions about the allegations. When reporters did anyway, supporters berated the press, BuzzFeed reported, telling them, “You were told not to ask about that” and, “You make me sick.” Moore’s wife Kayla posted a link to her Facebook page on Wednesday of a contact form the campaign has created for people to report “inappropriate news organization contact.” And someone posing as Washington Post reporter Lenny Bernstein placed automated phone calls offering people money for information about Moore.
People are “opening their eyes, they’re seeing we’ve been led down the road by the establishment, the establishment Republicans, the fake news,” said Dean Young, a friend of Moore’s who said he has become chief strategist on the campaign. “Trump really helped people see that we’ve been lied to for a long long time, we’ve been led around like a bunch of sheep.”
The Alabama-based Republican consultant David Mowery said that though there was an automatic tendency to dismiss reporting from national outlets like the Washington Post, reports by local outlets could hold more weight there. AL.com, for example, broke the news of another Moore accuser on Wednesday.