The race for Alabama Attorney General is probably the hottest of the 2018 cycle. Sparks tend to fly in highly competitive races, but one attack launched late last week really crossed the line.
Thursday night, several sources began texting images of a website and social media posts attacking Troy King, the former attorney general who is running for his old office again. The photos (which I’m not posting here) depict King’s face on the body of a scantily clad man holding a rainbow flag. The website, www.troykingfagnews.com, included links to blog posts containing old, never substantiated rumors questioning his sexuality.
Like I said: over the line. King is a married father of three. What grade are we in? A spokesman for his campaign declined to comment for this story.
Attacks like this are common, unfortunately. Former Attorney General and current 11th Circuit Judge Bill Pryor was the subject of a similar smear blog campaign when he was being considered for the Supreme Court.
Who done it
It doesn’t take long to connect the dots here. The photo and website link were posted to the Facebook account of Will Parker, boyfriend of Claire Austin, who is a consultant for one of King’s opponents: Alice Martin. Before you go clicking on it, the site and Facebook post have been removed. Parker appears to have deleted his Facebook account altogether.
Martin released a statement acknowledging someone on her campaign team was behind the sleazy attack while attempting to distance herself from them.
“Today’s actions by an unpaid supporter of my campaign were simply despicable,” Martin said. “I condemn the tactics and the individual responsible for promoting this disgusting website. This person has not had access or input to my campaign and will continue to have none.”
Multiple sources with knowledge of the situation said Martin called King to apologize and then directed advisers to see that the site was taken down.
I asked Martin’s spokesman, Cameron Foster if the “unpaid supporter” referred to Parker. He said he could not confirm that.
Austin did confirm that the statement refers to Parker, her boyfriend. She denied having any knowledge of the website’s existence and said she only learned about it when a campaign worker texted her Thursday night.
According to a domain registry search, the url was first purchased on January 27, 35 days before Parker’s Facebook post promoting it. That means, according Austin’s telling, Parker purchased the website more than a month ago and never mentioned or showed it to her.
Martin’s statement may also be underplaying Parker’s lack of involvement in the campaign. He has at least been invited to participate in multiple campaign strategy conference calls, according to sources familiar with those calls.
Why we can’t have nice things
It was tough getting folks to comment for this story. Most campaign workers wanted to talk off the record to encourage me to report it one way or the other without being quoted directly. One tried to convince me to list the trashy rumors in detail – a tell-tale sign that this whole thing was concocted as a way to get the rumors talked about again.
That’s bush league.
As one Montgomery politico without connections to any AG campaign told me, “Of all the races in the Republican Primary, you would think the one featuring the current AG, the former AG, a former U.S. Attorney and a former judge would be above board.
“This is why we can’t have nice things. It represents the very worst of Republican infighting and it’s bad for our state.”
The thing is, it is likely to happen again. I’ve been told other websites and attack memes could be in the works.