Roughly 685 miles separate The Washington Post’s main newsroom near Franklin Square in Washington, D.C., and Gadsden in northeast Alabama’s Etowah County.
It’s a long way (for those keeping score: 10 hours and six interstate highways by car), but it is the distance The Post’s Stephanie McCrummen, Beth Reinhard and Alice Crites had to travel in 2017 for their reporting on how then-Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Roy Moore pursued four women as teenagers while in his 30s.
The trio won the Pulitzer Prize for their reporting, which was likely the determining factor in the 2017 U.S. Senate special election, delivering Democrat Doug Jones the win.
Two different interstate highways, 199 miles and roughly three hours by car — that is the distance from The Post’s main newsroom to the Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, which is in the Tidewater region of Virginia, just adjacent to the District of Columbia.
That’s certainly not an insurmountable distance for an enterprising news outlet looking to perform due diligence on the potential future governor of a state where a sizable chunk of its readership resides. Apparently, however, that was too far for The Post to travel in 2017 to vet then-Virginia Democratic Party gubernatorial nominee Ralph Northam.
Northam beat his Republican opponent Ed Gillespie that year by 233,444 votes, roughly a 6 percent margin.
What might have happened had The Post made the trek down to Norfolk to peruse Northam’s medical school yearbook during the 2017 gubernatorial election in Virginia, a campaign which was underway around the same time as Alabama’s U.S. Senate special election?
What might have happened if The Post found the shocking photographs of the Democratic candidate potentially in blackface or a Klan robe a month before his election, just as it did with Moore’s accusers weeks before Alabama’s special election?
Gov. Ed Gillespie might be leading the Commonwealth of Virginia instead of Gov. Ralph Northam.
Maybe The Washington Post should have tended to matters in its own neighborhood before setting off on adventures in the Deep South.
That’s not to say Moore didn’t warrant scrutiny during his bid for higher office. But why would The Post dedicate resources to a campaign in Alabama for a story that relied heavily on personal accounts of allegations? Notably, The Post’s interest in the seedy allegations seemed to disappear post-Dec. 12, 2017, the day after Jones’ election. Why?
Why would the Post go all-in on Roy Moore while at the same time allowing a similarly disqualifying story slip through the cracks in its own backyard? How is it that the Post had time to find a school yearbook with Roy Moore’s signature it, but not the time to find one with a high-ranking Democratic candidate supposedly in racist garb?
The answer to that is pretty obvious: Roy Moore was a Republican. Ralph Northam was a Democrat. The Post wanted the Republican to lose.
It’s not a matter of journalists doing the Lord’s work for truth, justice and the American way. The Post sent a hit squad to Alabama to change the outcome of an election.
That’s not to say The Post violated a law. Those reporters had every right to be in Alabama, digging up dirt on Moore.
But it is time to stop pretending The Washington Post maintains a high standard of unbiased credibility. There is a double standard when it comes to Republicans and Democrats.
During the 2006 Virginia U.S. Senate contest between George Allen and Jim Webb, The Post dug deep into Allen’s past after his “Macaca” flub, which his political opponents used against him to label him a racist.
I get it: The Post is a national newspaper. The Roy Moore-Doug Jones race was a national story.
Do you know what else is a national story? When a news outlet (that isn’t The Washington Post) discovers a sitting governor might have once posed for photographs in blackface or a Klan robe (or at the very least found the picture appropriate enough to include on his yearbook page).
This is clear, undeniable evidence of a double standard, one of which impacted an election in Alabama, and frankly, another in Virginia.
You might say, “Well, we know the media is biased. Shouldn’t we move past that?”
As our politics go, we really can’t — at least not yet. A single media outlet, even if discredited as having a liberal bias, can still sway an election.
What is the answer? Under the First Amendment of our Constitution, there’s not much any government institution can do about it, nor should it.
All we can do is draw attention to it, especially since it hit here right at home.
A team of reporters comes to Alabama from our nation’s capital to impact a campaign that was underway nearly the same time as one where, at best, a once-racially insensitive Democratic Party candidate was elected with no scrutiny.
The Post should put out fires in its own community before starting new ones in Alabama.