2017 U.S. Senate Race

Beware the Stampede! News Media From Across the Globe Flocked to Alabama for Special Senate Election

A crew from NHK Television of Japan reports from a crowded media enclosure at Roy Moore’s election night event. (Source: Robert Carter)

The man who had hours before pulled off one of the biggest upsets in Alabama political history was quipping Wednesday about business development, of sorts.

“Folks, once again, let me say this. I have appreciated all that you have done for the Alabama economy, coming down here.”

Democrat Doug Jones, newly elected to the U.S. Senate, was talking to the throngs of reporters, photographers and camera crews — collectively known as “the media” —  who descended on Alabama from across the nation and around the world, representing an unprecedented interest in Alabama’s often-colorful politics.

On election night at Republican candidate Roy Moore’s campaign party in the RSA Events Center in Montgomery, dozens of TV crews and reporters were crammed like sardines in the back of the room.

The Moore campaign was unprepared for such a throng and ran out of credentials early. Videographers jockeyed for limited room on risers, while print and online reporters sat behind them elbow to elbow, sometimes sitting on the floor.

At one point, a crew from NHK Television in Japan was side by side with another from CNN’s Spanish-language news service.

Crews also were on hand from Great Britain, where many of London’s Fleet Street newspapers have given much attention to the race, sometimes rivaling coverage of Prince Harry’s engagement to American actress Meghan Markle.

They all came to cover a serious story — whether a Republican or Democrat carried the seat in large part could predict the likelihood of Republicans getting their big-ticket platform items passed — wrapped in layers of salacious allegations.

After Nov. 9, when the Washington Post published a blockbuster story in which four women accused Moore of sexual improprieties when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s, nothing was the same in Alabama for more than a month — and counting.

Moore denied the charges and does to this day, but the media could not resist the thought of the man known as the “Ten Commandments Judge” being implicated in a sex scandal. Suddenly, news crews who may not have been able to pick out Moore’s hometown in Etowah County on a map flooded across the border. Add in the debate over whether Trump — who is trailed by media always and who also has been accused of sexual abuse, by the way — would endorse Moore or not, and the crowd went crazy.

Talk radio, partisan websites, front-page newspaper editorials and non-stop coverage on the top cable news channels turned an off-season special election into an obsession.

That obsession came to a head on election night, as the media jammed a meeting room at Birmingham’s Sheraton Hotel to wait with Jones, and an equally large group was corralled into the back of a room in Montgomery.

Ironically, media members gathered for Jones’ press conference Wednesday were apprehensive about talking for the record about the throng of news crews and reporters. One longtime Birmingham reporter, who asked that he not be named, said, “I haven’t ever seen anything like this, and I’ve been covering politics since the ’90s. This is unreal. This has really been big.”