The Alabama Republican Party is standing by its man.
A week after allegations of sexual improprieties with teenagers surfaced about U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore, the state party has finally broken its silence and announced it will continue to support Moore in his race against Democratic candidate Doug Jones.
A statement was released by email Thursday afternoon, shortly after Moore appeared at a rally of religious leaders held at a Birmingham hotel.
The statement, attributed to state Chairwoman Terry Lathan, reads as follows:
“On Wednesday evening, the Alabama Republican Party Steering Committee, comprised of 21 members, met to discuss the events and circumstances regarding the December 12 U.S. Senate race.
“The ALGOP Steering Committee supports Judge Roy Moore as our nominee and trusts the voters as they make the ultimate decision in this crucial race.
“Judge Moore has vehemently denied the allegations made against him. He deserves to be presumed innocent of the accusations unless proven otherwise. He will continue to take his case straight to the people of Alabama.
“There is a sharp policy contrast between Judge Moore, a conservative Republican who supports President Trump, and the liberal Democrat who will fight and thwart the agenda of our president. We trust the Alabama voters in this election to have our beloved state and nation’s best interest at heart.
“Alabamians will be the ultimate jury in this election — not the media or those from afar.
“We are very grateful for the multitudes that have reached out to us with support and prayers. We ask God to guide us, politically and personally, with His mighty strength and wisdom. In turn, we also pray that justice and truth will prevail for all involved in this situation.”
The steering committee met Wednesday night at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Hoover. Committee members left without comment as they, with help from hotel management, evaded a phalanx of reporters waiting in the lobby and at a side entrance.
Most of those reporters went to the hotel from a press briefing by the Moore campaign at the Alabama GOP offices, a little more than a mile away. In that briefing, campaign chairman Bill Armistead, himself a former state party head, and lawyer Phillip Jauregui said they believed some of the material presented by one of Moore’s accusers was suspect.
Armistead called into question an inscription in a Southside High School 1977 yearbook that belonged to Beverly Young Nelson. Nelson accused Moore of trying to force himself on her in his car, parked behind the Olde Hickory House restaurant in Gadsden, where she worked. Nelson said Moore wrote a message in her yearbook just before that incident.
Armistead and Jauregui questioned the authenticity of the handwriting and called for Gloria Allred, the lawyer who staged the press conference Monday in New York in which Nelson made her claim, to turn over the book to a neutral party so that it could be authenticated by independent handwriting experts.
Allred responded that she would turn over the book if the Senate conducted hearings into the allegations and Moore and Nelson testified under oath.
Combatting the Backlash
The state GOP statement came during yet another day of frenetic efforts by Moore supporters to combat the rising backlash against his candidacy and calls for the former Alabama chief justice to step aside.
In a press conference Thursday afternoon at Birmingham’s Marriott Hotel, religious leaders from around the country spoke for about 90 minutes about how they support Moore and don’t believe the allegations being made against him.
Moore also spoke for a few minutes and called the allegations of sexual overtures toward teenagers, one as young as 14 at the time, “scurrilous” and “false.” He said the allegations were an attempt by Washington Republicans to steal the Alabama election and declared that he was staying in the race for good.
The floor was opened for questions about issues, but the meeting ended abruptly and Moore left after reporters asked him for his response to the allegations.
“I’ll quit standing when they lay me in that box and put me in the ground,” Moore said in statement posted on his Twitter feed.
A rally by other campaign officials in Montgomery later in the day featured a similar defense, including questioning Allred about what they called her failure to fully stand by the authenticity of the yearbook message during an interview on CNN.
This morning, Moore’s campaign plans a “Women for Moore” press conference at 10:30 on the steps of the state Capitol. Moore’s wife, Kayla, posted a flyer on her Facebook page that said the women set to speak would attest to Moore’s “upstanding character.”
Late Wednesday night, the Washington newspaper Politico published a story describing an effort by Republican officials linked with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, who opposed Moore and supported U.S. Sen. Luther Strange in the runoff. The story says that McConnell and his team are seeking advice on the possibility of asking Strange to resign. That act would force Gov. Kay Ivey to appoint a new senator and give her a chance to call off the current election and set a new election for a later date.
Moore has not been shy on calling out McConnell, even saying he is the one who should step down. Earlier in the week, Moore posted a tweet on his personal account that said, “Dear Mitch McConnell: Bring. It. On.”
But McConnell isn’t alone. Along with a string of other national Republicans who have backed away from Moore, the Republican National Committee has withdrawn financial support for his campaign.
Meanwhile, more women have accused Moore of other incidents. A report by AL.com says that Tina Johnson claims she was groped in the rear end by Moore when she and her mother were in his office in 1991. They were there for Johnson to sign papers giving custody of her son to her mother while she fought through a divorce, and Johnson claimed that Moore grabbed her as she left the office.
In another story in the Washington Post, two women said they were pursued by Moore at Gadsden Mall, where they worked as teenagers.
Voters will choose between Moore and Jones in 26 days, on Dec. 12.
Read the day’s reports on the Moore situation.
Democrat Jones Leads Roy Moore by 8 Points in Alabama, Per Fox News Poll (Washington Post)
Alabama Senate Race Aggravates Deep Divide in Republican Party (New York Times)
Marsh Opposes Write-In Alternative to Moore (Anniston Star)
Moore Scandal Creates Difficult Politics for Alabama Republican Women (Decatur Daily)
Birmingham Young Republicans Censure Roy Moore, Pull Endorsement (AL.com)
Will Alabama’s Politics Scuttle Its Chances at Toyota-Mazda? (AL.com)
In Sex Crimes and Other Cases, Roy Moore Often Sided With Defendants (New York Times)
Read BirminghamWatch’s coverage of the controversy