Allegations derail race
Woman accused Republican Senate candidate of sexual assault when she was 14
WASHINGTON — Republicans weren’t supposed to have to worry about Alabama.
Yet in the span of a tumultuous afternoon, a low-profile special election became a Republican nightmare that threatens a once-safe Senate seat — and offers a new window into ugly divisions that continue to plague the GOP in the age of U.S. President Donald Trump.
Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, a 70-year-old former state Supreme Court justice, defiantly denied allegations of decades-old sexual misconduct with minors published Thursday in a Washington Post story. The revelations, a month before the Dec. 12 special election, triggered a sharp backlash from would-be Republican colleagues on Capitol Hill, who called on Moore to quit the race if the allegations were true.
But on the ground in Alabama, local Republicans showed little sign of turning their backs on Moore. Some lashed out at his alleged victims.
“If they believe this man is predatory, they are guilty of allowing him to exist for 40 years. I think someone should prosecute and go after them. You can’t be a victim 40 years later, in my opinion,” state Rep. Ed Henry told The Cullman Times.
“It’s mudslinging at its best,” said one of Moore’s neighbours, 45-year-old Chris Hopper of Altoona, Ala. He added, “Why not vote for somebody that’s got good Christian values?”
In Washington, however, the controversy marked a bittersweet moment for some in the Republican establishment who argued that Moore, a Christian culture warrior twice removed from his state’s Supreme Court for judicial misconduct, never should have been the party’s Senate nominee in the first place. Some blamed Steve Bannon, Trump’s former senior strategist, who broke from most GOP leaders — including Trump himself — by cheering Moore’s candidacy earlier in the year.
“Dear GOP, send your thank you cards to the Breitbart embassy attn: Steve Bannon,” tweeted a sarcastic Josh Holmes, a former aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
The White House said Trump believes Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore “will do the right thing and step aside” if sexual misconduct allegations against him are true. Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters travelling with Trump in Asia that the president believes a “mere allegation” — especially one from many years ago — shouldn’t be allowed to destroy a person’s life.
But Sanders said: “The president also believes that if these allegations are true, Judge Moore will do the right thing and step aside.”
Across Washington, the calls from anxious Republicans for Moore to step aside if the allegations proved true grew as the hours passed on Thursday. They included Trump, McConnell and Cruz, House Freedom Caucus Chairman Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., and Alabama’s own senior senator, Richard Shelby.
Moore showed no signs of going quietly, vowing in a fundraising message distributed in the midst of Thursday’s chaos to “NEVER GIVE UP the fight!” as he cast his struggle as a “spiritual battle.”
It’s too late for Moore’s name to 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. A write-in campaign remains possible, Bennett added.
In Alabama, many responded with a collective shrug.
“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.
Alabama resident Becky Ashley dismissed the situation as a ploy by Democratic candidate Doug Jones, a former U.S. attorney. “I don’t believe them at all,” Ashley said. “I believe this is Doug Jones, some of his doings, you know. I just don’t believe Roy Moore would do that.”
Moore was twice removed from his state Supreme Court position, once for disobeying a federal court order to remove a 2,350-kg 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.
He said more recently that Rep. Keith Ellison, D -Minn., should not be allowed to serve in Congress because he’s a Muslim.
The Post reported that Moore, then a 32-year-old district attorney, 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.”
Three other women interviewed by the Post said Moore 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.
Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore is refusing to step aside ahead of a Dec. 12 special election in Alabama amid allegations from several women of sexual assault and misconduct.