Did Drudge Report Tip the Scales Against Roy Moore?
Personal issues sometimes trump ideological issues.
As of this writing, in the early morning hours of Wednesday, December 13, Doug Jones defeated Roy Moore by roughly 20,500 votes. This amounts to a 1.5 percent margin of victory. Is it possible that the very open campaign against Moore on Drudge Report caused him to lose the election?
Before explaining why Drudge, the conservative news aggregator, would oppose Moore, let’s remember just how influential this website is. It averages over one billion views per month.
Commenting at Politico in August, 2016, Hadas Gold wrote, “It’s an astonishing feat of longevity. Despite the fact that many on the right have lamented Drudge Report’s descent into full-on Trumpism, the bare-bones link aggregator is still incredibly dominant and just had its best month in its 21 year history.”
Drudge vs. Bannon
Why, then, would an unashamedly pro-Trump website oppose Roy Moore? Someone endorsed by Donald Trump? Someone important to the president’s agenda?
It’s because Drudge does not like Steve Bannon, who runs Breitbart. (Incidentally, Breitbart was founded by Andrew Breitbart, who once served as an editor for Drudge.)
And Breitbart is no internet slouch either. As the site self-reported earlier this year,
Breitbart News is the #45th most trafficked website in the United Sates, according to rankings from Amazon’s analytics company, Alexa.com.
With over two billion pageviews generated in 2016 and 45 million unique monthly visitors, Breitbart News has now surpassed Fox News (#47), Huffington Post (#50), Washington Post (#53), and Buzzfeed (#64) in traffic.”
And this was before Bannon returned as editor-in-chief, after his stint at the White House under President Trump. Since then, if my figures are correct, the site has grown even more.
But it would be wrong to look at this primarily as a battle between two competitors. The two websites serve very different purposes. And they stand together against “fake news,” liberal politics, and the like.
The conflict seems to be more personal. As reported by the Washington Examiner last month,
Matt Drudge, editor and founder of the influential Drudge Report, took an apparent swipe at former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon for backing U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore, R-Ala., whose campaign is engulfed in allegations over inappropriate sexual behavior.
On Twitter, Drudge said Wednesday that the controversy is serving as “a lesson on leaving politics to the professionals …” Attached to the tweet was an image of the Drudge Report, which at the time was linking to a Daily Beast story. The banner headline on the site reads “Bannon turns on Judge Whore?”
Headlines of Consequence?
Think about how slim Jones’ margin of victory was. Add to that the fact that many conservative Alabamians did not vote for Moore. It’s not hard to think that Drudge may have cost Moore the election.
Consider these prominent Drudge headlines the day of the elections (and remember, similar, negative headlines had been airing for days):
- Judge does interview with 12-year-old girl …
- Shows up to vote on horseback …
- Friend gives brothel defense
- Moore’s Last Push: It’s Me or the ‘Lynch Mob Media’ …
- Scarborough hits back at Bannon ..
- Nation watches on even of toxic election .
- Unlikely Nail Biter …
- Drama nears explosive end …
- JUDGMENT DAY
And this, as the featured, central headline: “BROKEBACK ELECTION.”
What? “Brokeback Election,” recalling “Brokeback Mountain,” the (in)famous movie about two gay lovers?
And what was the featured headline story after Jones was declared the winner? Not only did it declare, “DEMS WIN ALABAMA” and “WHITE HOUSE SHELLSHOCK” but it added: “BANNON BUSTED.”
And so, just as CNN unsurprisingly featured prominent stories emphasizing that this was a big loss for President Trump, Drudge pointed a big finger at Steve Bannon.
Judge Moore was already controversial. His staunch conservatism rattled even the Republican establishment. Then came the charges of sexual misconduct. Is it too much to think that the Drudge attack further discouraged voters from supporting Moore? Is it unfathomable to imagine that 20,000-25,000 voters who were wavering in their support for Moore decided to stay home?
It’s certainly a factor to consider.
It’s also a reminder that personality sometimes trumps ideology, to the point that two conservative web giants end up at war with each other.