Roy Moore’s reputation depends on denying that he dated teenage girls as a grown man, and yet he can’t quite bring himself to do it.
The Alabama Republican’s campaign for the Senate has been rocked by allegations of sexual improprieties with underage girls. While he’s denied the worst of the allegations, he turned in a rocky performance in an interview with radio talk-show host Sean Hannity that lent credence to the charges against him rather than dispelled them.
The alleged conduct dates back 40 years, and absent some difficult-to-imagine documentary proof, it will always be Moore’s word against that of his accusers. In this contest, Moore’s word is clearly the loser.
The Washington Post broke the original story of a woman, Leigh Corfman, saying Roy Moore touched her sexually when she was 14 years old; two other women told the Post that Moore dated and kissed them when they were teenagers. Then another woman, Beverly Young Nelson, appeared at a press conference with liberal lawyer Gloria Allred and accused Moore of trying to force himself on her in his car when she was 16 years old.
Moore naturally slammed the integrity of the Post and Allred. None of Moore’s accusers are liberal journalists working for The Washington Post, though. And Beverly Young Nelson stipulated that she and her husband voted for Donald Trump last year.
Moore’s other refrain is to ask why, after he’s been in the public eye for decades, are these allegations coming out now a month before a Senate election?
It’s a fair question. But Moore, long a radioactive figure at the state level, has never felt the heat of the national press corps quite like this before. He just won a Senate primary race that gained national attention as a front in a GOP civil war, and he’s gained new prominence at a time when women are, en masse, telling of their experiences with sexual harassers.
Moore hasn’t done himself any favors. In the Hannity interview, he first said, referring to Leigh Corfman and the other women in the Post report, “I’ve never known this woman or anything with regard to the other girls.” Then, in almost the same breath, he conceded, “I do recognize however the names of two these young ladies.” Oh.
Of one of the girls, he said: “I don’t remember going out on dates. I knew her as a friend. If we did go on dates then we did.” How many men in their 30s are “friends” with teenage girls who they may or may not have dated? Then Moore said of these two girls, “neither of them have ever stated any inappropriate behavior” — even though both of them said he dated and kissed them.
Asked point-blank if he dated girls in their teens, he replied with the less than Shermanesque, “Not generally, no.”
Moore strenuously denies Leigh Corfman’s allegations, but she has circumstantial evidence for her credibility. The Post confirmed that she told one friend at the time that she was seeing an older man and another that she was seeing Moore, and court records confirm that her mother was at an Alabama courthouse around the time Moore allegedly offered to watch the 14-year-old Leigh while she attended a hearing.
No doubt, Moore will just as strongly reject Beverly Young Nelson’s damning story. She said that Moore expressed an interest in her when she was working as a waitress and signed her high-school yearbook with a flirty message. Sure enough, she produced the yearbook with a cringe-inducing inscription saying how beautiful she is, signed, “Love, Roy Moore.”
At this point, there are two options: Either several different women who don’t know one another have decided to take the enormous personal risk of making up stories about Roy Moore in a vast political conspiracy, or a politician caught up in a scandal with every incentive to dissemble is doing it — and not very well.
Rich Lowry can be reached via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.