Former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court Roy Moore
Photo Credit: Judge Moore for U.S. Senate
Former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court Roy Moore
Photo Credit: Judge Moore for U.S. Senate

Update: See the update I wrote on Saturday.

The Washington Post dropped a bombshell today in Alabama’s U.S. Senate Race. One woman, Leigh Corfman, went on the record to say she had a sexual encounter, but not intercourse, with former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court Roy Moore, 70, when he was a deputy district attorney for Etowah County in northern Alabama in 1979. She was 14-years-old, and he was 32-years old.

The age of consent in Alabama in 1979 was the same that it is now – 16-years-old. They explained Alabama’s law regarding sexual contact with someone under the age of consent:

Under Alabama law in 1979, and today, a person who is at least 19 years old who has sexual contact with someone older than 12 and younger than 15 has committed sexual abuse in the second degree. Sexual contact is defined as touching of sexual or intimate parts. The crime is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail.

The law then and now also includes a section on enticing a child younger than 16 to enter a home with the purpose of proposing sexual intercourse or fondling of sexual and genital parts. That is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

In Alabama, the statute of limitations for bringing felony charges involving sexual abuse of a minor in 1979 would have run out three years later, and the time frame for filing a civil complaint would have ended when the alleged victim turned 21, according to Child USA, a nonprofit research and advocacy group at the University of Pennsylvania.

She did not make a police report or a civil complaint.

The Washington Post also reported that between 1979 and 1982 he dated three additional women, who went on the record when he was a deputy district attorney. He served in that position between 1977 and 1982. One woman, Wendy Miller, says she met Moore when she was 14-years-old working as a Santa’s helper in the local mall, and then he asked her out for dates when she was 16. Debbie Wesson Gibson says she met Moore when she was 17-years-old when he spoke to her Civics class. She said they went out on several dates after that. Gloria Thacker Season was an 18-year-old cheerleader when she said she dated Moore. She said he would order wine for her when they went out. The legal drinking age in Alabama at the time was 19. Those relationships, The Washington Post reported, did not progress beyond kissing.

All women said the dating and any physical contact was consensual.

Moore denied the allegations. “These allegations are completely false and are a desperate political attack by the National Democrat Party and the Washington Post on this campaign,” he said to The Washington Post.

The campaign released the following statement from the campaign chairman Bill Armistead:

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 Washington Post has already endorsed the Judge’s opponent, and for months, they have engaged in a systematic campaign to distort the truth about the Judge’s record and career and derail his campaign. In fact, just two days ago, the Foundation for Moral Law sent a retraction demand to the Post for the false stories they wrote about the Judge’s work and compensation. But apparently, there is no end to what the Post will allege.

The Judge has been married to Kayla for nearly 33 years, has 4 children, and 5 grandchildren. He has been a candidate in four hotly-contested statewide political contests, twice as a gubernatorial candidate and twice as a candidate for chief justice. He has been a three-time candidate for local office, and he has been a national figure in two ground-breaking, judicial fights over religious liberty and traditional marriage. After over 40 years of public service, if any of these allegations were true, they would have been made public long before now.

Judge Roy Moore is winning with a double-digit lead. So it is no surprise, with just over four weeks remaining, in a race for the U.S. Senate with national implications, that the Democratic Party and the country’s most liberal newspaper would come up with a fabrication of this kind.

This garbage is the very definition of fake news and intentional defamation.

Here are four thoughts I’ve had as I’ve been processing this news:

1. Being accused doesn’t mean you are guilty.

If the statue of limitations has not already run out and there was enough evidence to indict, Moore would have the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. Unfortunately, in the court of public opinion, we don’t have that right. I have seen on social media that people are so quick to believe the worst about people they do not like.

We should not presume his guilt solely because he was accused, and that standard should apply to any politician – Democrat, Republican, liberal, conservative, whether you like that person or whether you don’t.

Just remember the Duke LaCrosse team and how that eventually played out. Rushing to judgment is never a good thing.

2. I am skeptical but saying “he couldn’t possibly have done this” is dumb. (So is saying it is no big deal.)

Women who have (in this case allegedly) been victimized need to be heard. We shouldn’t shut them down or shut them out, but it is reasonable to vet what they have to say.

I say I’m skeptical for two primary reasons. First, there is nothing during the last 38 years that would suggest he would do something like this, but there are also many people in prison whose family and friends said something similar about them. That said, there have been no allegations of impropriety while he has been in public service. By all accounts, he has been faithful to his wife. It just seems out of character.

Secondly, the timing does stink. I have some questions:

  • Why didn’t Coffman come out when he ran for Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court in 2000?  She said her kids were in school at the time. Ok, then why not when he ran again in 2012? Why not come forward when he declared as a candidate for U.S. Senate or when he ran for Governor? This information coming out now that he has secured the nomination is just hinky. On the other hand, I know it is not easy for people to come forward like this and I have no idea what I would have done if I were in her shoes. So I’m in no way saying she is lying.
  • The Washington Post said they heard of this while reporting on his supporters. Heard from who? Was it an average citizen or was opposition research handed to them? When exactly did they find out? Was it after the primary and the runoff?  It seems strange in three weeks they went from rumors to tracking down names and contact information for the four women and 26 additional people they said they interviewed about something that happened 38 years ago. That is not impossible, but it seems like some legwork was done for them.
  • Does The Washington Post recognize their conflict of interest in reporting this race having endorsed Moore’s opponent? Newspaper outlets should reconsider this practice because it does damage their credibility reporting on a campaign.

That said, no person is immune. The Bible says “All have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23). Moore could have done this and has been faithful to his wife, both can be true. Those who think it is impossible for Moore (or anyone) to fall does not have a proper understanding of human nature.

Also, while I am skeptical, four women – on the record – shared their stories. That builds credibility. Wendy Miller’s mother – on the record – said she refused to grant Moore permission to date her 16-year-old daughter.  Corfman’s mother recalled her daughter telling her in the mid-1990s about her encounter with Moore. A friend of Corfman’s – on the record – said she the woman told her about Moore at the time it was going on.

It does not prove Moore committed sexual abuse, but it is tough to discount what appears to be a credible account of Moore dating teenage women.

Also, Alabama State Auditor Jim Ziegler gave an example of how Moore’s supporters should not respond to this news. He wins the award for the creepiest defense given in political history. Instead of defending Moore, he made it worse. Dismissing the allegations as “no big deal” is creepy, disgusting, and wrong.

We also shouldn’t have a defend-at-all-costs mindset. Moore is not perfect, and defending the indefensible never ends well.

3. Whether this accusation is true or not Moore may be toast.

Public opinion is a fickle thing, and this is not an “ordinary” scandal. I think we’ve become numb toward accusations about marital infidelity – our current President and President Bill Clinton are proof of that. This is not that. This is an accusation of sexual abuse.

I don’t see how he can recover from this even if he did not do it. He can’t smear Corfman and the other women, that is in poor taste and is sure to backfire. Unfortunately, in the court of public opinion, you have to prove your innocence. How in the world will he do that? He said she said situations never bode well for candidates. Moore will have trouble with all but his most diehard supporters. Even if he by some miracle survive this and win the election this will hang over his head like a dark cloud throughout his term.

His wife, Kayla, said she will bring a defamation lawsuit against The Washington Post. Frankly, I don’t know how well that will work since the women came forward and went on the record. Also, if he loses then it is even worse. Also, a lawsuit will take too long to have any meaningful impact on the election.

If this accusation is true or even partially true, Moore needs to come clean. He owes it to his supporters and Alabama voters to do so. He owes it to those accusing him. He needs to repent and seek amends, and he needs to step aside because he would be utterly disqualified to be a U.S. Senator.

From everything I’ve seen he does not intend to that. He left no middle ground – either he is lying or the women and The Washington Post are.

4. The media failed Alabama voters.

If there were rumors out there about this why didn’t the local media follow-up on this earlier? If national media outlets covering this U.S. Senate race heard these rumors why didn’t they follow-up and report on this before the primary? If there were rumors floating out there surely some reporter heard about it before now.

Alabama voters should have had the opportunity to consider this when they voted for Chief Justice, and Republican voters should have had that same opportunity before the primary.

Unless there were not rumors and this was opposition research gift wrapped for the media.

Conclusion:

This situation, looking at how Moore responded, leaves us ultimately with two possible conclusions. Either Moore is lying or the women and The Washington Post (by extension) are lying.

In a nutshell, Christians should strive for truth. We should desire and pray for the truth to come out wherever it leads. If the accusations are true, Christian voters in Alabama should hold Moore accountable by pressuring him to drop out or by not voting for him if he doesn’t. If it isn’t true then the accusers and The Washington Post must be held accountable.

Our thirst for truth should override any loyalty to a candidate (or hatred of that candidate), as well as, loyalty or hatred/distrust of a particular news outlet.

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