Two days after losing Alabama's special Senate election, Republican nominee Roy Moore has yet to concede the race to Democrat Doug Jones — even after White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that he should.
"I think the president's position is pretty clear in his outreach to Doug Jones directly," Sanders said at Thursday's briefing with reporters. "He likes Doug Jones and looks forward to meeting him in person. and hopes that he will come and follow through on his commitment to work with the president on some things that they agree on."
Asked if President Trump believed that Moore should give a concession speech, Sanders said that it "should have already taken place."
But Moore, who suggested on election night that the race would go to a recount, said in a Wednesday web video that late-counted ballots could change the results of the election.
"We have not received the final count to include military and provisional ballots," Moore said. "This has been a very close race, and we are awaiting certification by the secretary of state."
Moore, who lost by 20,715 votes, is not in a position to ask for a recount. Alabama law does not trigger a recount unless the margin between two candidates is less than 0.5 percent; according to the latest count by the Associated Press, the margin between Jones and Moore is 1.5 percent.
Since Tuesday night, Moore has received no official support from his party. The Republican Party of Alabama, which stood by Moore when national Republicans abandoned him, congratulated Jones on Wednesday. Sen. Luther Strange, R-Ala., who lost a bitter primary to Moore, also congratulated Jones "on a well-earned victory." In a Wednesday interview with AL.com, Jones said he had already had warm conversations with future Senate colleagues, and was looking at hiring a staff composed of "the best and the brightest."
Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, who sided with Moore's campaign during several election controversies, has said that the election will be certified Dec. 28. But at the same time, Merrill's office has had to brush off conspiracy theories promoted by pro-Moore websites, which have suggested that the results were tainted by fraud.
One theory, which went viral before being debunked by Snopes.com, was that multiple black voters were caught trying to vote with fake IDs. (More than 95 percent of black voters supported Jones, giving him his winning margin.) Another, also debunked quickly, was that vans of illegal voters were seen somewhere in the state.
Merrill's office confirmed that there had been no actual reports of that kind of behavior. "There's a lot of misdirection that comes in around Election Day," said John Bennett, a spokesman for Merrill. "We got no reports that caused us enough concern to act against them." Alabama's voter ID law, which has survived tough legal challenges, had previously led to four convictions of voter impersonation.
But there were more theories, some of them tweeted at Moore when he shared his video. One suggested that people seen celebrating at Jones's party, who admitted coming in from out of state, might have voted illegally. (In a news clip, they clumsily said they had come to "vote and canvass together.")
Another, promoted by the conservative site Big League Politics, suggested that the election-night count – in which urban Mobile and Jefferson counties came in last, putting Jones in the lead – was suspicious. In the election's final days, Moore's campaign had cited an inaccurate Big League Politics story to claim that women who accused Moore of sexual assault had been found and directed to the media by Republican strategist Tim Miller; Moore's Twitter account shared the story after Breitbart News aggregated it.
Big League Politics also shared a rumor that went viral when posted by the Gateway Pundit, a conservative group blog that since the start of this year has sent a reporter to the White House briefing. Citing a post on Reddit by a user named Warren4Prez, Gateway Pundit's Jim Hoft told readers that "Democrat activists are calling on black voters in Mississippi, Georgia and South Carolina to travel to Alabama to vote for the far-left candidate Doug Jones."
The post, published 28 days before the election, suggested just that. "African Americans in Mississippi: We need you to make a short trip to Alabama on Dec. 12 and vote against the right-wing Republican Senate candidate and child molester Roy Moore," wrote Warren4Prez.
But in an interview, the Redditor behind the post confirmed that it was intended "as an obvious troll."
"I was trying to get a rise out of alt-right people, and then they really went for it," said Warren4Prez, who spoke on the phone after proving that the account was theirs. "I got like 100 posts on Reddit, telling me I was being hated by everybody. Democrats started posting stuff accusing me of trying to discredit them."
Warren4Prez posted the fake request on political Reddit pages for each state that borders Alabama; it was removed from all but the Mississippi page. In an email, Hoft did not say whether he contacted Warren4Prez to verify the information, but he did point to an update at the bottom of the viral Gateway Pundit post.
"Liberals say these are fake Reddit posts(?)" Hoft wrote. "Regardless, the posts are still up on Reddit and the posters are still encouraging Democrats to cheat."
Moore, who insisted that allegations of past sexual misbehavior were "fake news," sometimes led supportive conservative media to awkward places. On election day, the One America News Network, which had run stories about Moore designed to exonerate him – one pointed out that an accuser's son had been a drug addict – informed viewers that Moore had won.
"We're being told that there are strong signs that the majority of voters have come out in support of the judge," OANN reported, before the polls in Alabama had closed. "We are unofficially announcing that Roy Moore has won this race."
The story was quickly deleted from OANN's website, but Jon Levine, a media editor at The Wrap, captured a video of the original broadcast.
In an earlier report, saved and published Tuesday by a Moore supporter, OANN correspondent Pearson Sharp cited campaign sources to report an "unexpected surge" of votes for Moore.
"They say that if even half these numbers continue throughout the day, that it will turn out to be a landslide for Moore," said Sharp. "We have reports that a number of people have been caught trying to sneak into voting booths and vote illegally. His campaign told me that most of the people who have been turned away so far have been across the state line in Mississippi. But they say that voting fraud hasn't been too much of a problem yet, and that only 50 people had been caught."