WASHINGTON – Republican leaders are expressing fear that Alabama U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore will tarnish the GOP brand after four women were cited in a Washington Post report claiming the former judge dated them when he was in his 30s and they were teens, with one charging he initiated a sexual encounter when she was 14.
Moore is the Republican nominee in a special election Dec. 12 for the Alabama U.S. Senate seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
The Post, which endorsed Moore’s Democratic opponent, reported Tuesday one of the women claimed she went on several dates with Moore when she was 18, another said she was 17, a third said he asked her to date when she was 16, but her mother wouldn’t allow it. A fourth woman said that when she was 14, Moore kissed her on a first date and on a second they stripped down to underwear and engage in sexual touching.
The legal age of consent in Alabama, then and now, is 16.
Exclusive: Woman says Roy Moore initiated sexual encounter when she was 14, he was 32 https://t.co/lsvCr4s0NC
— Washington Post (@washingtonpost) November 9, 2017
None of the women have ever filed a police report or civil suit.
Moore vehemently denied the allegations Friday, calling them a “desperate political attack” and saying he would refuse to stand down.
“It has been a tough 24 hours because my wife and I were blindsided by an article based on a lie supported by innuendo. It seems that in the political arena, to say that something is not true is simply not good enough. So let me be clear. I have never provided alcohol to minors, and I have never engaged in sexual misconduct. As a father of a daughter and a grandfather of five granddaughters, I condemn the actions of any man who engages in sexual misconduct not just against minors but against any woman,” he said in a statement.
“I also believe that any person who has been abused should feel the liberty to come forward and seek protection. I know that a lot of people wonder why this story was written. Why would women say these things if they are not true? I can’t fully answer that because as much as I have disagreed vehemently on political issues with many people over the years, I cannot understand the mentality of using such a dangerous lie to try to personally destroy someone.”
Moore said that as a former judge and administer of the law, “I take the protection of our innocent as one of my most sacred callings.”
“False allegations are gravely serious and will have a profound consequence on those who are truly harassed or molested. I strongly urge the Washington Post, and everyone involved, to tell the truth. That is all we can do, and I trust that the people of Alabama, who know my record after 40 years of public service, will vouch for my character and commitment to the rule of law.”
Romney: ‘I believe Leigh Corfman’
But many Republican leaders in the House and Senate are not standing by him.
Over a dozen Republican senators are urging Moore to drop out of the race if he can’t disprove the allegations.
Former governor of Massachusetts and 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney demanded Moore drop out of the race on Friday.
“Innocent until proven guilty is for criminal convictions, not elections,” Romney tweeted.
Innocent until proven guilty is for criminal convictions, not elections. I believe Leigh Corfman. Her account is too serious to ignore. Moore is unfit for office and should step aside.
— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) November 10, 2017
Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said Friday that Moore should drop out because he has a limited time to prove his innocence.
“Ordinarily – the person is entitled to the presumption of innocence, but in this case the charge is so serious, and the fact that its backed up by other woman and it’s so hideous,” King said on MSNBC. “Unless he can prove his innocence, the burden is now on him, within they next day or so I believe he has to step down. He owes it to himself, he owes it to the state, and he owes it to the Senate.”
A poll released Wednesday commissioned by Raycom News Network showed Moore leading Democratic opponent Doug Jones 51 percent to 40 percent. But a poll released Thursday by Opinion Savvy and commissioned by Decision Desk HQ, reflecting the impact of the Washington Post report, showed the two candidates tied at 46 percent.
Allegations of sexual misconduct with a minor make Moore unfit to serve, Ohio Gov. John Kasich tweeted Friday.
“I’ve long opposed Roy Moore & his divisive viewpoints. The actions described make him unfit for office,” he wrote. “The GOP must not support him. He should step aside,” the Republican governor said.
I’ve long opposed Roy Moore & his divisive viewpoints. The actions described make him unfit for office. The GOP must not support him. He should step aside.
— John Kasich (@JohnKasich) November 10, 2017
“If these allegations are true, Roy Moore should step aside for all the obvious reason,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel, R-Ky., told reporters Thursday. “Very disturbing.”
Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., has canceled his appearance at a fundraiser he was slated to attend with Moore next Friday in Albertville, Alabama, according to NBC News.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, requested his picture be removed from a fundraising email Moore sent to supporters in response to the Washington Post report.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee backed out of a joint fundraising effort with Moore because of the allegations, according to Federal Election Commission documents filed Friday.
The NRSC, the Senate campaign arm of the Republican Party, had been part of a fundraising coalition that includes the Alabama Republican Party and the Republican National Committee.
“The allegations against Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore are deeply troubling. If these allegations are found to be true, Roy Moore must drop out of the Alabama special Senate election,” said NRSC chairman Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo.
Bannon maintains support
Yet, independent groups that have been financially supporting Moore, such as the Steve Bannon-aligned Great America PAC, seem to be sticking with him.
And Bannon, the former White House chief strategist, voiced support for Moore.
Speaking at a fundraiser in Manchester, New Hampshire, Thursday, Bannon compared the Washington Post’s report on Moore to the infamous Access Hollywood tape that was leaked during the 2016 presidential election.
“The Bezos-Amazon-Washington Post that dropped that dime on Donald Trump, is the same Bezos-Amazon-Washington Post that dropped the dime this afternoon on Judge Roy Moore. Now is that a coincidence?” Bannon said.
“That’s what I mean when I say opposition party, right? It’s purely part of the apparatus of the Democratic Party. They don’t make any bones about it. By the way, I don’t mind it. I’ll call them out every day.”
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders warned against jumping to conclusions.
President Trump, she said, “believes we cannot allow a mere allegation, in this case from many years ago, to destroy a person’s life.”
“However, the president also believes that if these allegations are true, Judge Moore will do the right thing and step aside.”
Rep. Ed Henry, R-Ala., said Friday that legal action should be taken against the women accusing Moore of sexual misconduct with a minor.
“If they believe this man is predatory, they are guilty of allowing him to exist for 40 years,” Henry told the Cullman Times. “I think someone should prosecute and go after them. You can’t be a victim 40 years later, in my opinion.
“The idea that accusations like this would stop his campaign is ludicrous,” Henry said. “You cannot tell me there hasn’t been an opportunity through the years to make these accusations with as many times as he’s run and been in the news.”
Levin: How did the Post know?
Conservative talk radio host Mark Levin told his audience Thursday he suspects the peculiarly timed Post story was planted to doom Moore’s campaign.
“How did the WaPo know there were four women, who they were, and how to contact them? A Washington Post reporter just happens to be in Alabama talking to Roy Moore supporters and he happens to hear what no one has reported in 38 years, no political opponents – no one— that Roy Moore, 38 years ago, made advances to teenage girls, four of them,” Levin said.
“Now, the four girls do not know each other, they have never met, yet the person who the Post reporter happened to run into and speak to, the person who supposedly told the reporter the story about the four girls, happened to know all four girls and how to contact them?” Levin continued.
“Seriously? The Post was fed this information by someone or some group.”
The Republican establishment is turning on Moore to secure the candidate they originally backed, Luther Strange, Levin contended.
“Mitch McConnell is asking Roy Moore to step aside if he is guilty of the accusations against him. But McConnell says nothing about Bob Menendez, a sitting U.S. senator who is on trial for corruption charges and lewd behavior with minors? Why is it that Republicans don’t demand his resignation? Isn’t it amazing that Republicans knew what to say right on cue? They are ready to recruit Luther Strange as a write-in guy.”
One of the accusers, Debbie Wesson Gibson, claims Moore asked her out when she was a student in high school, after giving a lecture to her civics class. She alleges that Moore didn’t go further than a kiss during the times when they were alone.
Gibson reportedly has worked for the Democratic National Committee as a sign language interpreter for both Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton.
She is also actively campaigning for Moore’s opponent, Jones.
Moore defeated Sen. Luther Strange, the primary candidate endorsed by President Trump and Republican congressional leaders in the primary runoff election in September.
Twice elected chief justice of Alabama and twice removed for refusing to follow federal court orders on the Ten Commandments and same-sex marriage, Moore defeated Strange by about 10 percentage points. Strange was appointed to the seat earlier this year by disgraced former Gov. Robert Bentley following the confirmation of Jeff Sessions as attorney general.
Not only did Moore win easily, he overcame millions of dollars in attack ads from the Senate Leadership Fund, which is closely aligned with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Moore also won despite President Trump’s active support for Strange.