‘GOP candidate abused girl, 14’
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
‘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