A woman whose effort to trick the Washington Post into believing she had been sexually abused by Republican Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore schemed for months in an elaborate effort to discredit the newspaper and other mainstream media outlets, according to a Post report published Wednesday.
The new report details how Jaime Phillips attempted to befriend journalists from the Post, The New York Times, Bloomberg and McClatchy News, among other news outlets, by attending media parties and networking events. The infiltration effort dates back to at least July, the Post reported.
Phillips, 41, is believed to be coordinating with Project Veritas, an organization known for using illegal tactics to target the media and left-leaning groups. She was outed on Monday for trying to push a fake story about Moore, the Alabama Republican Senate candidate accused of sexual misconduct.
Phillips told the Post that she’d had an abortion after conceiving a child with Moore when she was 15. Inconsistencies in her tale, however, prompted skepticism among reporters, who had unearthed a GoFundMe page under her name announcing a new job working “in the conservative media movement to combat the lies and deceipt [sic] of the liberal MSM,” or mainstream media.
On Monday morning, Phillips was spotted walking into the New York offices of Project Veritas.
The controversial organization and its founder, James O’Keefe, have been caught out in the past for other sting efforts, such as an attempt to incite a left-wing riot at Trump’s inauguration. The group’s efforts to discredit CNN have also fallen flat.
In 2010, O’Keefe was arrested and later charged with a misdemeanor for using a fake identity to enter a federal building. He had been trying to break into the office of then-Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) office when he was caught by federal authorities.
Several journalists in Washington and New York told the Post that Phillips attended “at least seven social gatherings in recent months,” including a going-away party for two Post staffers. Phillips secretly recorded some of her interactions at these events — several of which have since been shared online by Project Veritas.
Journalists reacted to the Post’s latest report by calling the tactics “disgusting” and “vile.” The news has also raised concerns within other media outlets about how covert operatives from organizations like Project Veritas could be infiltrating their own networks.
McClatchy data reporter Ben Wieder, who met Phillips at a media happy hour meetup in Washington in September, told the Post he attended such events often and was ”[worried] that this sort of thing will create a little bit of a chilling effect, that people might be worried and more cautious if they are at a happy hour.”
On Wednesday night, Wieder retweeted this warning from Post reporter Beth Reinhard, who co-authored the exposé on Phillips:
Emily Goodell, a staff writer for the Student Press Law Center, was at the same happy hour meetup as Wieder and Phillips.
In a blog post published Wednesday, she described meeting Phillips who’d introduced herself under the false name Jaime Taylor and had quizzed Goodell, then an intern at the SPLC, “about being a reporter, about politics, about what I thought about the news.”
“I didn’t think about our interaction again until I read The Post article Tuesday morning,” Goodell wrote. “I’ve been racking my brain since. Nothing came out of my interaction with her, but now my mind is inundated with all the things that could have happened.”
Goodell went on to warn “all reporters, not just those who are in the early years of their career like me ... [to] learn from my experience.”
“I got lucky this time, but it was a wake–up call for me. Sometimes I forget the lengths to which people will go to discredit news organizations,” she wrote.