Sex scandal hits ‘Ten Commandments judge’
Alabama Senate candidate accused of having sexual contact with girl, 14, in 1979
WASHINGTON— He was “the Ten Commandments judge,” a self-proclaimed defender of Christian righteousness. He founded a group called the Foundation for Moral Law, warned of the danger of Muslims, accused gay people of perversion. Now he is accused of a sex crime. Roy Moore, the Republican nominee for an open U.S. Senate seat in Alabama, was plunged into an explosive scandal on Thursday when the Washington Post reported that an Alabama woman alleges that Moore had sexual contact with her in 1979 when she was 14 and he was a 32year-old assistant district attorney.
The Post also found three other women who said Moore pursued them when he was in his early 30s and they were teens. One was 16, one was 17 and one was 18. Those three women said he did not force them into sexual activities.
But Leigh Corfman, who was 14 at the time, said he picked her up outside a courthouse, then, days later, kissed her.
“On a second visit,” the Post reported, “he took off her shirt and pants and removed his clothes. He touched her over her bra and underpants, she says, and guided her hand to touch him over his underwear.”
The age of consent in Alabama was, and is, 16. Corfman, who said she voted for Donald Trump in 2016, did not report the incidents to police before the statute of limitations expired. Corfman’s accusations rocked a race in which Moore was a strong favourite to win. And it put Republicans in a bind: because the election to replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions is less than five weeks away, it would be too late to remove Moore’s name from the ballot even if he wanted to withdraw.
Republican members of Congress and Vice-President Mike Pence were united in calling for Moore to leave the race — if, they specified, the accu- sation were true. Some, such as Sen. John McCain, were more forceful, calling for Moore to withdraw immediately.
It was not clear whether Moore could be influenced by party pressure. He is known for his defiance, having been twice kicked out of his job as Alabama’s chief justice for refusing to accept the rulings of other courts, and he was selected as nominee over the opposition of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Moore delivered a scathing attack on the Post along with vehement denial on Thursday, saying “this garbage is the very definition of fake news and intentional defamation.” In an audacious response, he sent out a fundraising email asking for donations to fight the allegations.
The scandal boosts the Democrats’ chances in a race about which some had already been cautiously optimistic because of Moore’s polarizing history of far-right behaviour and bigotry. Their candidate, lawyer Doug Jones, was tied with Moore in one recent poll and down less than 10 points in two others.
The stakes are high. A Democratic upset would give the Senate 49 Democrats to go with 51 Republicans.
But Alabama is one of the country’s most reliably Republican states, and Moore received strong support from local party activists across Alabama. Their response was another sign of the intense partisanship that has gripped much of the U.S. right over the last decade.
Five Republican county chairmen told the Star they believed the allegations were false. One of them said he would vote for Moore even if there were proof Moore had abused a girl.
“I would vote for Judge Moore because I wouldn’t want to vote for Doug,” Bibb County chairperson Jerry Pow said. “I’m not saying I support what he did.”
Covington County chairperson William Blocker also said he’d consider voting for Moore even if hard evidence of sexual abuse emerged.
“There is no option to support Doug Jones, the Democratic nominee. When you do that, you are supporting the entire Democrat party,” he said.
Geneva County chairperson Riley Seibenhener said he did not think Moore should withdraw even if the allegations were true.
“Other than being with an underage person — he didn’t really force himself,” Seibenhener said. “I know that’s bad enough, but I don’t know. If he withdraws, it’s five weeks to the election . . . that would concede it to the Democrat.”
“It was 40 years ago,” Marion County chairperson David Hall said. “I really don’t see the relevance of it. He was 32. She was supposedly 14.” He added, incorrectly, “She’s not saying that anything happened other than they kissed.”
Judge Roy Moore vehemently denied the allegations, saying “this garbage is the very definition of fake news and intentional defamation.”
Leigh Corfman, left, with her mother, Nancy Wells, around 1979 when Corfman was 14 years old.