On one side are the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and House Speaker Paul Ryan. They have disowned #Roy Moore, the party’s nominee for the U.S. Senate in Alabama, over allegations that he targeted, and in some cases molested, minors and other teen girls. On the other side are social conservatives, including Alabama’s state auditor, who argue that courtship between an older man and a teenage girl is consensual, biblical, good for the girl, and grounded in the natural attraction of a godly man to the “purity of a young woman.” Alongside the purity camp is the tolerance camp, led by Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey. These Republicans don’t deny the allegations or endorse Moore’s conduct, but they support him anyway, reasoning that other issues are more important.
Many Republicans are afraid to take sides in this debate. They want to stick with the GOP nominee, or at least avoid antagonizing voters who support him. But they don’t want to defend the sexual exploitation of minors. So they’ve staked out a neutral position: Moore is innocent until proven guilty. President Trump adopted this position on Tuesday, urging voters not to elect Moore’s Democratic opponent, Doug Jones. A reporter asked Trump: “Is Roy Moore, a child molester, better than a Democrat?” The president replied: “Well, he denies it. … He totally denies it. He says it didn’t happen.”
This position sounds reasonable, but it’s a sham. Moore’s denials are designed to provide cover for Trump, Sean Hannity, Alabama’s Republican congressmen, and others who don’t want to acknowledge Moore’s sins. But factually, the denials have already collapsed. It’s time to sweep them out of the way.
Let’s start with the premise of the innocence argument: that voters should discount the allegations until they’re proven in court. That sounds fair, but it’s impossible. The alleged offenses took place decades ago, well outside Alabama’s statute of limitations. Moore can’t be charged or sued. His accusers will never get their day in court, unless he agrees to testify under oath, which could subject him to prosecution for perjury. Naturally, he has declined this challenge. So anyone who tells you to ignore the allegations until they’re validated in court is telling you, in effect, to ignore them forever.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t measure Moore’s credibility against the credibility of his accusers. We can check both sides’ stories against the available evidence. On one test after another, Moore fails.
1. The accusers. Moore portrayed his first four accusers as pawns of the Washington Post, which reported their allegations. Since then, five more women have come forward, mostly speaking to outlets other than the Post. With one exception, the nine women don’t know one another. They’ve given their names and answered hard questions, in some cases on live TV, while Moore has stiff-armed reporters. Each woman has told only her own story, but there are hints that they’re just the tip of the iceberg. One recalls Moore telling her, “I go out with girls your age all the time.” Two of the women say they supported Trump. Another says she’s a Republican. A fourth calls herself a devout Christian. Yet Moore and his allies continue to dismiss all the allegations as a liberal plot.
2. Supporting witnesses. One accuser, Leigh Corfman, says Moore seduced her when she was 14. Moore says he never met her, but Corfman’s mother says she was present when the two met. Another accuser, Wendy Miller, says Moore flirted with her when she was 14 and asked her out at 16. Her mother, too, confirms the story, saying she told Moore he was too old to date her daughter. Kayla McLaughlin, who worked at a mall store with a third accuser, Gena Richardson, says she saw Moore pursue Richardson. Two other accusers, Beverly Nelson and Tina Johnson, told their sisters about Moore years ago. The idea that all these girls, their mothers, their sisters, and their friends began coordinating a massive lie decades ago—and somehow conspired to keep it quiet through Moore’s many previous political campaigns, saving it for a special Senate election in 2017—is completely preposterous. And that’s before we get to the many other people in Moore’s town, including a colleague in the district attorney’s office, who have broadly described, in some cases firsthand, how Moore fished for teenagers.
3. Documents. A February 1979 court order supports Corfman’s contention that she was down the hall from Moore’s office on the day she says they met. Moore’s campaign says Corfman’s story about where Moore picked her up for dates can’t be true because she didn’t live where she claims to have lived. But an old police report confirms that she did. (When the Post asked the Moore campaign to document its counterclaim that Corfman lived a mile away, the campaign replied: “We will not respond to anyone from the Post.”) Another court record shows that Johnson was a client of Moore in 1991, when she says he groped her.
Moore’s campaign has attacked Nelson’s story that he assaulted her 40 years ago outside a restaurant. The campaign has questioned whether the restaurant existed there at the time, and Moore’s wife has promoted claims that it didn’t. A 1978 city directory confirms that it did. Moore has also denied allegations by Corfman and another woman, Gloria Deason, that he gave them alcohol when they were underage. Moore says he couldn’t have done that, because the county didn’t permit alcohol sales at the time. This, too, is false: The county had legalized alcohol sales several years earlier, and the restaurant where Deason says Moore ordered bottles of Rose confirms that it served booze.