Sunday on CNN’s “Reliable Sources,” a panel, featuring AL.com columnist Kyle Whitmire, Huntsville, AL radio talk host Dale Jackson and The Washingtonian’s Elaina Plott, analyzed the role of the media in week’s U.S. Senate special election in Alabama.
Stelter wondered why some Alabamians are still supporting Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Roy Moore, despite allegations against that he acted inappropriately toward underage females decades ago.
Whitmire argued media queries often reinforced why Moore’s base supported him. Jackson responded by pointing out how Moore and President Donald Trump have had success weaponizing the term “fake news,” and argued that the media had itself to blame.
Jackson pointed to a 2015 AL.com column from Whitmire in which a poll question was included about Moore’s sexuality, and suggested it was media attacks like that as to why many Alabama voters don’t trust the media.
Partial transcript as follows:
BRIAN STELTER, HOST, CNN’S “RELIABLE SOURCES’: So, let’s talk about what the next 48 hours of campaigning in store and what could happen Tuesday night.
Kyle Whitmire is here. He’s a state political columnist for The Alabama Media Group. Also, Dale Jackson, the host of “The Dale Jackson Show” on WVNN Radio in Alabama and Elaina Plott, staff writer for The Washingtonian. She’s a native Alabamian who has been covering the election for the magazine.
Kyle, lots to talk about. Let’s start with Roy Moore and his campaigning or lack thereof.
Is it true that he’s mostly missing from the campaign trail in these key final days?
KYLE WHITMIRE, STATE POLITICAL COLUMNIST, ALABAMA MEDIA GROUP: Right. Even before these allegations came out, he was pretty scarce on the campaign trail. Roy Moore has always been a candidate who sort of lets his opponents do a lot of the heavy lifting for him. He has a very, very loyal base in the state.
And when his opponents attack him, when the media questions him, that only just re-enforces their support for Roy Moore. So, yes, he’s been scarce. He’s — even before these allegations, he’s certainly been scarce since these allegations came out, and has not been making himself available to much media except for talk shows and other forums that are sympathetic or friendly to him.
STELTER: Dale, you are a conservative radio host in Huntsville. Have you been able to get the candidate on your show?
DALE JACKSON, HOST, “THE DALE JACKSON SHOW” WVNN: Roy Moore has not come on my radio show in months, and I don’t expect to get him on my show before this election takes place or afterwards. I’ve been very unfriendly to Roy Moore for years here. And the real question about this is why the people don’t believe what the media is saying and the reason is simple — lots of retractions. Donald Trump, a pathological liar, has weaponized the term “fake news” and your guy sitting right there, Kyle Whitmire, months ago, years ago, excuse me, wrote a piece asking if Roy Moore was gay.
Why in the world would anybody listen to the stuff that’s coming out of those outlets? That’s the real problem here.
WHITMIRE: Look, these allegations are — they’re credible. And, yes, you know, Dale is right about the piece I wrote years ago. The question was whether this was following a narrative that we’ve seen over and over again with his vitriol toward the LGBTQ community.
But let’s face it — this is an apparatus, a reality distortion field that the Republican Party and the right has created and it’s been in effect here in Alabama that gives people license to disbelieve things that they don’t want to be true.
STELTER: So, I wonder, Elaina, as we think about the broader context here, if this is a preview of what the midterms are going to be like? If Republican candidates are going to run against the press, especially if it works for Roy Moore on Tuesday?
ELAINA PLOTT, STAFF WRITER, WASHINGTONIAN: Well, I can tell you that, I know you cited a poll that is a tossup between Moore and Jones. But I believe, as I have from the beginning of this election, that Roy Moore will win on Tuesday.
And I think what that’s going to show to every single Republican candidate going forward, especially a Chris McDaniel in Mississippi against Roger Wicker, that the media is a credible opponent, that elections for Republicans do not have to be about ideology any longer. Squaring up against an opponent based on policy proposals. You can weaponize fake news as this president has done so well and rally the base around that and feel comfortable going into a Tuesday election.
STELTER: Doesn’t that mean something is broken in our society?
PLOTT: Well, I would say so. But I also think it points to — you know, I kind of think we forget it wasn’t until President Trump that the term “fake news” coursed through society so easily. I mean, you can walk down the street and hear anyone use the term “fake news”, whether jokingly, ironically or not, but I do think that’s a signal that this is a pretty embedded part of our culture at this point and reporters are going to have to consistently come up with ways to make sure that they’re being respected and listened to in spite of that.
STELTER: Dale, you know, I would say that sometimes you’re on the radio tearing down the press, discouraging people from trusting real reporting. I think you might say that we deserve it, right?
JACKSON: Well, the simple fact is this — there has been an agenda against Roy Moore in the state of Alabama going back a decade. Why in the world would people believe the things that are said if it’s always negative over and over and over and over again? That weaponizes the term fake news.
You guys have to look inside your own house to make that conversation, because the bottom line is this — people don’t trust you guys and the reason they don’t trust you is because you are constantly telling them they are wrong, they are stupid, they are racists, and then we’re saying, hey, listen to us you wrong, stupid and racist people. It’s not going to work, they don’t trust you guys.
STELTER: When you say they don’t trust you guys, I think what you mean, Dale, is there’s a percentage of the country primarily conservatives who for years and decades have just trusted the press, who do not trust mainstream reporting. It is not a majority of the country.
JACKSON: I would say it’s a pretty big number. Donald Trump was able to become president of the United States using this same attack. You pointed out a minute ago, Roy Moore is doing the exact same thing.
This election is about Roy Moore and Roy Moore only. None of us sitting on this panel know what Doug Jones believes on absolutely anything because it has become a battle between Roy Moore and you guys and he’s going to win.
STELTER: I do think it’s a problem that Doug Jones has not received more coverage. You just saw a tweet, Kyle, from a viewer who said the media hasn’t really covered the election. They’ve only covered Moore. Quote, you barely know Jones was also running.
Has that been a problem, Kyle, for you on the ground there?
WHITMIRE: I don’t believe that’s fair. I mean, look, yes, we don’t cover houses that aren’t on fire, right? Doug Jones is a pretty vanilla Democrat. That’s sort of what he’s put himself out there as a generic Democrat, for the purpose of not trying to get nailed down on certain issues.
You know, he has had problems with his stance on abortion, but other than that, you look up and down on his list of issues. It’s what you would expect from a Democrat.
Meanwhile, you have Roy Moore who is not a typical Republican in a lot of respects, you know, to the point that this morning, Richard Shelby came out on your network criticizing him again and something that, you know, he couldn’t have criticized him more directly if he were writing an attack ad for the Jones’ campaign.
So, look, yes, we — there has clearly been more coverage of Roy Moore, just because he is such a spectacle and such an abnormality.
STELTER: Elaina, Kyle, Dale, thank you all for being here. I appreciate it.
JACKSON: Thank you.
PLOTT: Thank you, Brian.
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