Just when former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore seemed headed for victory in the Dec. 12 special U.S. Senate election, an accusation that he had inappropriate sexual contact nearly four decades ago with a girl who was 14 has thrown the race into turmoil.
In a bombshell story published Thursday, The Washington Post reported allegations by Leigh Corfman that she went out with Moore and they had inappropriate sexual contact when she was 14 and he was 32.
Three other women also told the Post that Moore approached them for dates when they were between 16 and 18 and he was in his early 30s, but their contact with the man who later became chief justice of Alabama never went beyond kissing.
Moore’s campaign in a response attributed to campaign chairman Bill Armistead said, “Judge Roy Moore has endured the most outlandish attacks on any candidate in the modern political arena, but this story in today’s Washington Post alleging sexual impropriety takes the cake. National liberal organizations know their chosen candidate Doug Jones is in a death spiral, and this is their last ditch Hail Mary.”
The accusations call into question whether Moore, who defeated incumbent Sen. Luther Strange in a Republican primary runoff in October, can continue in his election battle with Jones.
After the Post story broke, numerous members of the Senate, including Alabama’s Richard Shelby, called on Moore to step aside as the GOP nominee if the charges were true. One senator didn’t bother with the “if true” caveat; John McCain, R-Arizona, in a tweet called the accusations “disqualifying.”
Moore has never been the darling of Washington Republicans. Although the Republican establishment in D.C. backed Moore after he won the primary runoff, they initially supported his opponent, Sen. Luther Strange. Moore was the target of millions of dollars in negative campaign advertising in the runoff race, much of it produced by the Senate Leadership Fund, a super-PAC that is controlled by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky.
Many of Alabama’s Republican officials also took somewhat of a wait-and-see attitude. Gov. Kay Ivey, for instance, called the allegations “deeply disturbing,” but said she is withholding judgment until all the facts are known.
A spokesman for the Jones campaign issued a brief statement, saying only, “Roy Moore needs to answer these serious charges.”
Despite multiple attempts by BirminghamWatch to get Alabama Republican Party officials to comment on the accusations, the lone staffer at their Hoover office Thursday afternoon declined to comment, saying a statement would be released by Chairwoman Terry Lathan “shortly.” As of 10:30 p.m., no statement by Lathan had been released.
However, Samuel H. Givhan, the senior vice chairman of the state party, described The Washington Post story as “allegations from somebody who has been silent for over 40 years” and who was speaking out just weeks before an election.
The Post’s editorial board after the runoff took the unusual step of making an endorsement in the special Senate race, backing Jones
Moore Remains on the Ballot
Even if Moore were to step aside, his name would remain on the ballot in December. State law prohibits a name from being removed within 76 days of an election. But write-in votes would be permitted, as long as the vote is not done with a rubber stamp or stick-on label. That would make Strange, U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, who finished third in the first round of the GOP primary, or any other living person eligible for election via write-in, an official with the Alabama Secretary of State’s office told the Post.
Moore won the runoff with wide margins in rural areas of the state, while Strange prevailed in urban areas, including his home in Jefferson County.
While pundits began questioning whether a sex scandal would open the opportunity for Alabama to elect its first Democratic senator in more than two decades, Moore took the opportunity to issue a fundraising appeal asking for emergency donations in a “spiritual battle,” the Associated Press reported.
The effect the scandal will have on Moore’s voters is unclear. BirminghamWatch spoke with two voters Thursday at a hardware store in Sylvan Springs, a community in western Jefferson County that was a stronghold for Moore in the runoff.
“To me, it’s just mudslinging. I still think it’s the Democratic Party’s dirty tricks. It’s just the same old thing, that’s just how the Democratic Party operates,” Randy Julian said. “There’s going to be more mudslinging. That’s the way it’s going to go … . That’s what’s got me mad about the Republican’s established party now, is that it’s like they don’t have no backbone to fight ‘em.”
Donald Cox’s reservations about Moore stem more from him declining to take on Jones in a debate than with Thursday’s scandal.
“That’s what’s holding me back. I wish he would debate. Do it. Let me hear it,” Cox said. “I don’t know. When he ran in that first election a couple of months ago, I didn’t vote for him. But I wasn’t sure about myself, because I knew so many other Christians that did. I didn’t feel good about it, but I was going to hold my vote until the (general) election.”
Sam Prickett and Virginia Martin contributed to this story.
Read full coverage on the story:
Mitch McConnell Calls on Roy Moore to Exit Alabama Senate Race ‘If These Allegations Are True’ (Washington Post)
Why Evangelical Voters Are Unlikely to Bail on Roy Moore (Washington Post)
Several Alabama Republicans Defend Moore But Others Cautious; His Name to Stay on Ballot (Decatur Daily)
Kay Ivey, Other Alabama Leaders, Weigh in on ‘Deeply Disturbing’ Roy Moore Allegations (AL.com)
Roy Moore Says ‘Forces of Evil’ Behind Report of Sexual Contact With 14-year-old (Fox News)
Moore Accuser’s Attorney: “I’m Sure She Was Scared to Death” to Report Sexual Encounter (AL.com)
‘Bizarre’ Responses From Alabama GOP Officials on Roy Moore’s Alleged Sexual Encounters (Business Insider)
The date of the general election has been corrected in this story. It is Dec. 12.