Associated Press Alabama Chief Justice and U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore faces allegations that he made inappropriate advances and had sexual contact in 1979 with an Alabama woman who was then 14.
Friday, November 10, 2017 1:00 am
Sex allegations hit Senate race
Alabama hopeful's campaign denies 4 women's stories
WASHINGTON – A month before Alabama's special election, Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore abruptly faced lurid allegations Thursday of sexual misconduct with minors decades ago – and an immediate backlash from party leaders who demanded he get out of the race if the accusations prove true.
The instant fallout followed a Washington Post report in which an Alabama woman said Moore, then a 32-year-old assistant district attorney, had sexual contact with her when she was 14. Three other women interviewed by the Post said Moore, now 70, approached them when they were between the ages of 16 and 18 and he was in his early 30s. All four women spoke on the record to the Post.
The Moore campaign denied the report as “the very definition of fake news and intentional defamation.”
Defiant as ever, Moore himself issued a fundraising appeal asking for emergency donations in a “spiritual battle.”
“I believe you and I have a duty to stand up and fight back against the forces of evil waging an all-out war on our conservative values,” he wrote. “I will NEVER GIVE UP the fight!”
Moore, a former Alabama Supreme Court justice, has made his name in Republican politics through his public devotion to hard-line Christian conservative positions. He was twice removed from his Supreme Court position, once for disobeying a federal court order to remove a 5,200-pound granite Ten Commandments monument from the lobby of the state judicial building, and later for urging state probate judges to defy the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized gay marriage.
The Post reported that Moore, then 32, first approached 14-year-old Leigh Corfman in early 1979 outside a courtroom in Etowah County, Alabama. After phone calls and meetings, he drove her to his home some days later and kissed her, the Post quotes Corfman as saying. On a second visit, he took off her shirt and pants and removed his clothes except for his underwear before touching her over her bra and underpants, Corfman told the Post. He also guided her hand to touch him over his underwear, she said.
“I wanted it over with – I wanted out,” she told the Post. “Please just get this over with. Whatever this is, just get it over.”
On Thursday, senior Republicans swiftly called for Moore to step aside from the Senate race if the allegations are shown to be true. And the man he defeated in the Republican primary, current Sen. Luther Strange, left open the possibility he may re-enter the campaign.
“If these allegations are true, he must step aside,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said.
The intensity of the reaction may partly reflect lingering bad feelings from the primary contest between Moore and Strange, held in late September. Much of the Republican establishment – including McConnell and President Donald Trump – supported Strange, while the GOP's more conservative flank – including former Trump strategist Steve Bannon – backed Moore.
Neither Bannon nor the White House had an immediate comment. But on the ground in Alabama, some Republicans were willing to downplay the allegations.
“Take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus,” Alabama state Auditor Jim Ziegler told the Washington Examiner.
Moore's Democratic challenger, former U.S. attorney Doug Jones, had little to say aside from an eight-word campaign statement: “Roy Moore needs to answer these serious charges.”
The Alabama special election is to fill the vacancy created when Trump tapped Sen. Jeff Sessions to serve as the U.S. attorney general. Then-Gov. Robert Bentley appointed Strange in the interim.
Moore's name cannot be removed from the ballot before the Dec. 12 special election even if he withdraws from the race, according to John Bennett, a spokesman for the Alabama secretary of state.