Alabama Media Group, which publishes the three largest newspapers in the state, responded this week to threats by Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, calling his accusations of defamation and libel a “grandstanding attempt to frighten us, silence us, make us back off.”
In a letter on Friday published by the Washington Post, an attorney for the Alabama Media Group told Moore’s attorney that they will neither retract their coverage of the sexual assault accusations against Moore nor cease further reporting into him, his wife, and their Foundation for Moral Law. Michelle Holmes, vice president of content for the organization, told ThinkProgress Monday that she sees Moore’s threats as an attempt to suppress the media.
“This is a grandstanding attempt to frighten us, silence us, make us back off, and that’s not what we do,” she said. “What we do is report the news, and we’ll continue to that.”
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Holmes said that as of Monday, Moore and his attorney, Trenton Garmon, have not responded to the letter.
“We will stand behind our reporting,” Holmes said. “We will continue to report this uncowed by his threats.”
Last week, Garmon sent a letter rife with grammatical mistakes to an attorney for the Alabama Media Group, accusing the reporters with the organization of “defamation, libel & slander, fraud, malice, suppression, wantonness, conspiracy, and negligence.” Garmon threatens to sue the media organization, despite the lack of evidence that anything they reported was factually incorrect.
The letter from Moore’s attorney includes a number of false claims, including that only two women have publicly accused Moore of sexual misconduct or assault (as of the date of the letter, it was five). Garmon also says his firm has a handwriting expert who will prove that the signature in a yearbook belonging to one of Moore’s accusers is not Moore’s writing, but Moore’s lawyers have yet to produce evidence to support that claim.
Holmes pointed out that Moore and his attorney do not include any specific facts they allege are incorrect. Instead, they broadly accuse the organization of defamation and libel — charges that are extremely hard to prove against the press. To win in court, Moore and his attorney would have to show that the reporters conducted their work with “actual malice” because Moore is a public figure.
From now until the December 12 election, Holmes said her organization, which publishes AL.com and newspapers across the state, will continue doggedly investigating the claims against Moore.
“We have a number of excellent reporters and editors who are spending almost all of their time working on this,” she added. “We continue to look at these allegations, on the race itself, [and] on Doug Jones.”
On Sunday, the organization’s three papers published an editorial on their front pages urging readers to reject Moore.