Roy Moore’s campaign announced Wednesday morning that it would consider legal action against television stations continuing to air what it describes as a “patently false” advertisement from the pro-Doug Jones Highway 31 Super PAC.
The 30-second ad in question focuses on rumors, as reported in a Nov. 13 New Yorker article, that Moore had been banned from the Gadsden Mall for soliciting sex from teenage girls. Moore has denied these accusations, as well as multiple other allegations of sexual contact with underage women.
Stories of the ban have been corroborated by some former Gadsden Mall employees and dismissed by others. Former mall manager Barnes Boyle told WBRC that, “to my knowledge, he was not banned from the mall.”
The “Shopping Mall” ad includes a quote from New American Journal, a liberal political opinion site that repeated claims of Moore’s ban, as well as testimony from an anonymous Gadsden police officer who said he had voted for Moore in the past, “but I’m basically disgusted now.” Another quote, taken from a Nov. 13 AL.com interview with Teresa Jones — a former coworker of Moore’s from the 1980s, when he worked as an assistant district attorney in Etowah County — says that Moore’s accusers “are being skewered for the truth.”
In a press release, the Moore campaign accused the ad of “quoting third-hand gossip and repeating outright falsehoods” and calling the ad’s testimonies “nothing but a figment of the rumor mill.”
“Furthermore the truth is that Moore never solicited sex from young girls at the Gadsden Mall and no such false accusation has been alleged by anyone,” the press release states.
Allegations have been made against Moore, however. On Nov. 16, a former mall employee, Becky Gray, told ABC News that Moore had repeatedly made “creepy” advances on her, eventually leading her to complain to her manager.
The Moore press release described the ad’s allegations as “new, outrageous, and patently unsubstantiated,” and demanded that television stations “cease airing these false attack ads immediately and refrain from airing them on any future date. Under Alabama law, you can be held liable for the substantial damages caused by these false and defamatory ads. Failure to comply with this request may result in immediate legal action.”
Highway 31 is a political action committee founded by Montgomery political strategist Adam Muhlendorf and Birmingham attorney Edward Still. The PAC is not directly affiliated with Jones’ campaign, but it has spent nearly $2 million on television, digital, and direct mail ads in favor of the candidate, the Washington Post reported Dec. 1. It’s the second-biggest spender in the race after Jones’ campaign, which has spent $5.4 million on television and radio ads since Oct. 3. Highway 31 has refused to disclose the names of its donors before the election, though under FEC rules it will have to do so by Jan. 21.
Other Ads Attacked
It’s not the first time the PAC has come under fire for its anti-Moore television ads. Earlier this week, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill said that his office had received complaints about another ad, this one telling voters that “your community will know whether or not you helped stop Roy Moore.”
“We have seen the contents of the ad and it is voter intimidation,” Merrill told AL.com, saying that the ad called into question the anonymity of votes. Muhlendorf defended the ad in a statement, saying that Merrill was “distorting” its intent. The ad has been removed from Youtube after discussions between representatives of the secretary of state’s office and Google.
It’s hard to gauge the impact these ads will have on voters. There are currently 10 times more pro-Jones ads on Alabama airwaves than pro-Moore ones, according to a recent Politico report, but one recent poll shows Moore leading Jones 50 percent to 43 percent in the state.
Alabama’s Senate election will be held Dec. 12.