Yesterday, a news story started floating around that had all the signs of a hoax attack on Pete Buttigieg. The story, accusing the Democratic presidential candidate of sexual assault, was very obviously tailor-made to get certain right-leaning media to bite.
First, this story was initially just shopped around to the right-wing sites with a history of posting these types of stories without really investigating them. You know, places like Big League Politics and Gateway Pundit. That’s a warning sign in and of itself.
Second, the story was very obviously shipped out as Buttigieg was nearing what is possibly his peak: His media popularity is very high, there is a lot of talk about him, and he’s gotten himself on the radar with a public (one-sided) feud with Mike Pence. If it were a serious allegation, it would have come earlier than now.
Third, the story falls into the type of category we should know very well by now: Too Good To Be True Confirmation Bias.
It is clearly a reaction to the baseless attack brought against Brett Kavanaugh by people who believe in the “Play By Their Rules” system of politics. It’s a system where you take something despicable that your opponents did and do it to them, usually with escalation. The key players in this one, according to The Daily Beast, are Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman. These two fancy themselves right-wing provocateurs but hardly qualify as decent Internet trolls. They have simply made their names known in the right (and wrong) circles and increased their notoriety, despite having accomplished nothing.
This type of attack against Buttigieg is beneath conservatives, though. We should not be playing by their rules. When we do that, we’re just increasing the hostility and doing nothing to repair the damage that’s already been done by two parties more focused on themselves and not on actually fixing things.
There is plenty to criticize Buttigieg on, and we should continue to do so. But giving this type of attack any sort of legitimacy, even through speculation, is nothing short of appalling, and we should do better.
Thankfully, it appears most conservative outlets did not take the bait. The ones that did are the ones that always do. It’s why their credibility is shot, even among their peers. For any conservative to spend months enraged at the treatment of Brett Kavanaugh and then turn around and give life to this rumor is hypocrisy at its finest. We need to be better than that.