The Washington Post says it was targeted by a conservative sting operation that tried to get it to print a dramatic but phony story about Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore and a pregnant teenager.
The Post broke the story about alleged sexual misconduct by Moore and his reported pursuit of teenage girls when he was in his 30s and an Alabama district attorney. Several woman gave similar accounts to the newspaper. Moore has denied the allegations and threatened to sue the newspaper.
The Post said late Monday a woman identifying herself as Jaime Phillips told a reporter that Moore impregnated her when she was 15 and forced her to have an abortion.
She told the reporter she wanted the Post to guarantee Moore would lose the election to the U.S. Senate if she told her story.
But the newspaper found numerous holes and inconsistencies in her account and her background and declined to publish her sordid tale.
Further investigation by The Post revealed that Phillips may have been working for Project Veritas — a New York organization that targets and tries to discredit mainstream media outlets and left-wing groups.
Project Veritas founder James O'Keefe declined to answer any questions from The Washington Post Monday, including questions whether Phillips worked for her.
Telephone calls to Phillips went unanswered, but she had denied working for any such group during a second meeting with Post reporters.
"We always honor 'off-the-record' agreements when they're entered into in good faith," Washington Post executive editor Martin Baron said.
"But this so-called 'off-the-record' conversation was the essence of a scheme to deceive and embarrass us. The intent by Project Veritas clearly was to publicize the conversation if we fell for the trap. Because of our customary journalistic rigor, we weren't fooled and we can't honor an 'off-the-record' agreement that was solicited in maliciously bad faith."
There have been earlier attempts at debunking the charges leveled against Roy Moore as reported by The Post, including allegations the newspaper paid the women for telling it Moore sexually molested them as teens.
The Post says it never pays anyone for information.
Moore is running for the Alabama Senate seat formerly held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Polls in Alabama show him trailing his Democratic opponent Doug Jones.