‘GOP can­di­date abused girl, 14’

The Weekend Australian - - WORLD -

WASH­ING­TON: Repub­li­can Se­nate can­di­date Roy Moore yes­ter­day faced al­le­ga­tions of child sex­ual abuse and a back­lash from party lead­ers who de­manded he with­draw from next’s month Alabama spe­cial elec­tion if the ac­cu­sa­tions prove true.

Three other women said Mr Moore also ap­proached them when they were teenagers.

The fall­out fol­lowed a re­port in The Wash­ing­ton Post in which Alabama woman Leigh Corf­man said Mr 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 Mr Moore, now 70, ap­proached them when they were be­tween the ages of 16 and 18 and he was in his early 30s.

Mr Moore, who has been mar­ried for three decades and is a fa­ther of four, de­nied any sex­ual im­pro­pri­ety. His cam­paign said the re­port was “the very def­i­ni­tion of fake news and in­ten­tional defama­tion”.

De­fi­ant as ever, he ap­pealed 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!”

The for­mer Alabama Supreme Court judge and hard­line Chris­tian con­ser­va­tive was twice re­moved from the court: once for dis­obey­ing a fed­eral court or­der to re­move a 2360kg gran­ite mon­u­ment of the 10 Com­mand­ments from the lobby of the state ju­di­cial build­ing, and again for urg­ing pro­bate judges to defy the US Supreme Court de­ci­sion that le­galised gay mar­riage.

Yes­ter­day, se­nior Repub­li­cans called for Mr Moore to step aside from the Se­nate race if the al­le­ga­tions were shown to be true.

The man he de­feated in the Repub­li­can pri­mary, sen­a­tor Luther Strange, left open the pos­si­bil­ity he may re-en­ter the cam­paign.

Mr Moore’s name can­not be re­moved from the bal­lot be­fore the De­cem­ber 12 poll even if he with­draws from the race. How­ever, a write-in cam­paign is pos­si­ble although it would be dif­fi­cult to rally the hun­dreds of thou­sands of vot­ers needed to write an­other can­di­date’s name on the bal­lot pa­per.

Sen­a­tor Strange would not say whether he would re-en­ter the race. “Well, that’s get­ting the cart ahead of the horse ... Let me do some more re­search,” he said.

The spe­cial elec­tion is to fill the va­cancy cre­ated when Don­ald Trump ap­pointed Jeff Ses­sions as at­tor­ney-gen­eral. Sen­a­tor Strange was ap­pointed in the in­terim.

Colorado Se­nate chair­man Cory Gard­ner, who leads the Sen- ate GOP cam­paign arm, said the al­le­ga­tions against Mr Moore were “deeply trou­bling”. “If these al­le­ga­tions are found to be true, Roy Moore must drop out of the Alabama spe­cial Se­nate elec­tion,” he said.

Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell added: “If these al­le­ga­tions are true, he must step aside.”

Ari­zona sen­a­tor John McCain said the al­le­ga­tions were “deeply dis­turb­ing and dis­qual­i­fy­ing”. “He should im­me­di­ately step aside and al­low the peo­ple of Alabama to elect a can­di­date they can be proud of,” he said.

Texas sen­a­tor John Cornyn said if the al­le­ga­tions were true the can­di­dacy was not “sus­tain­able”.

The in­ten­sity of the re­ac­tion may re­flect lin­ger­ing bad feel­ings from the pri­mary con­test in Septem­ber be­tween Sen­a­tor Strange and Mr Moore. Much of the Repub­li­can es­tab­lish­ment, in­clud­ing Mr Trump and Sen­a­tor McCon­nell, had sup­ported Sen­a­tor Strange, while the GOP’s more con­ser­va­tive flank, in­clud­ing for­mer Trump strate­gist Steve Ban­non, had backed Mr Moore.

In New Hamp­shire yes­ter­day, Mr Ban­non at­tacked The Wash­ing­ton Post as an “ap­pa­ra­tus of the Demo­cratic Party”.

In Alabama, some Repub­li­cans down­played the al­le­ga­tions. “Take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult car­pen­ter. They be­came par­ents of Je­sus,” state au­di­tor Jim Ziegler told The Wash­ing­ton Ex­am­iner.

In the east­ern Alabama town of He­flin, some peo­ple were in­dif­fer­ent or dis­be­lieved the claim.

“He seems like a good guy to me,” said Pat Hurst. “I as­sume ev­ery­body has made some kind of mis­take in life, but I wouldn’t think he needs to step aside unless they prove that he is guilty of some bad sex­ual con­duct.”

Mr Moore’s Demo­cratic chal­lenger, for­mer US at­tor­ney Doug Jones, had lit­tle to say. “Roy Moore needs to an­swer these seri- ous charges,” he said in a cam­paign state­ment.

The Post re­ported that Mr Moore first ap­proached Ms Corf­man in early 1979 out­side a court­room in Etowah county.

Af­ter phone calls and meet­ings, he drove her to his home some days later and kissed her, she said. 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, Ms Corf­man said. He also guided her hand to touch him over his un­der­wear, she said.

“I wanted it over with — I wanted out,” she said. “Please just get this over with. What­ever this is, just get it over.”

Alabama law lists the le­gal age of con­sent as 16, but the state’s statute of lim­i­ta­tions for bring­ing charges in­volv­ing sex­ual abuse of a mi­nor in 1979 would have run out three years later.

Ms Corf­man never filed a po­lice re­port or a civil suit. None of the other women said Mr Moore had forced them into any sort of re­la­tion­ship or sex­ual con­tact.

‘I wanted it over with — I wanted out’ LEIGH CORF­MAN AL­LEGED VIC­TIM

PIC­TURES: AFP, GETTY IM­AGES

‘I will never give up the fight’: Roy Moore at the Fam­ily Re­search Coun­cil’s Val­ues Voter Sum­mit in Wash­ing­ton last month, above; Leigh Corf­man with her mother, Nancy Wells, in 1979, top right; Roy Moore and wife Kayla ar­rive to vote in the pri­mary in the town of Gal­lant on Septem­ber 26

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