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Allegations of sexual impropriety by Roy Moore roil Alabama U.S. Senate race

Woman says Moore had sexual contact with her when she was 14; three others allege he pursued them as teenagers

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com

MONTGOMERY (CFP) — Republican U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore is sharply denying a published report alleging that he initiated sexual contact with a 14-year-old girl in 1979 when he was 32 and working as a prosecutor in Alabama, calling it “totally false” and a “desperate political attack.”

Alabama U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore

Three other women also told The Washington Post that Moore pursued them when they were teenagers, although none of those women allege that any sexual contact beyond kissing took place.

The salacious allegations about Moore, coming just a month before a special election to fill the Senate seat, sparked alarm among GOP leaders, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell saying “if these allegations are true, [Moore] must step aside.”

However, if Moore were to withdraw, Alabama law would not allow Republicans to replace him on the ballot, which would force them to use a write-in campaign to prevent the coveted Senate seat from falling into the hands of Democrat Doug Jones.

Moore fought back against the allegations with a statement in which he called the story “completely false” and “a desperate political attack by the National Democrat Party and the Washington Post on this campaign.”

Noting that Moore has run public office numerous times over the last 40 years, his campaign issued another statement saying “if any of these allegations were true, they would have been made public long before now.”

“This garbage is the very definition of fake news and intentional defamation,” the statement said, noting also that the Post’s editorial board has endorsed Jones. (However, it should be noted that in American newspapers, the editorial board operates independently from news reporters.)

Suggestions of sexual impropriety could pose a special problem for Moore, 70, because his legal and political careers have been built on unapologetic Christian conservatism, which is frequently on display in most of his speeches.

Moore was twice removed as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court after defying federal court orders on displaying the Ten Commandments and issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. He is also the founder and president of the Foundation for Moral Law, which advocates social conservative views in court.

In the Post story, Leigh Corfman said Moore pursued her after meeting her outside an Alabama courthouse in 1979, when she was 14. She said they made two trips to his home, and, during the second trip, Moore touched her sexually over her underwear and had her do the same to him. At the time, Moore had not yet married his wife, Kayla.

The Post quoted a childhood friend of Corfman’s who said shetold her about her interactions with Moore around the time they happened; Corfman’s mother said her daughter told her about it a decade later, after Moore had become a local judge.

The three other women said Moore asked them out when they were teenagers. One girl’s mother forbade her from going out with the much-older Moore; the other two said their contact with Moore did not progress beyond kissing, and one said she and Moore drank wine together.

Corfman told the Post that she has voted Republican in the last three presidential elections and didn’t come forward until now because she feared the possible ramifications. The Post also reported that none of the women had made campaign donations to Jones or Moore’s Republican primary rival, U.S. Senator Luther Strange.

The allegations in the Post have further eroded Moore’s already shaky relationship with fellow Republicans in the Senate, all of whom backed Strange in the primary. And in the current climate of heightened sensitivity to allegations of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct, Republicans were quick to put daylight between themselves and Moore.

At least nine Republican senators said publicly that Moore should withdraw if the allegations are true. On Twitter, U.S. Senator John McCain went even further, calling allegations “deeply disturbing and disqualifying,” and adding that Moore “should immediately step aside and allow the people of Alabama to elect a candidate they can be proud of.”

Even Alabama’s other senator, Richard Shelby, joined the chorus; he was quoted by Politico as saying that “if that’s true, he doesn’t belong in the Senate.”

However, Moore — who twice put his job as chief justice on the line to defy federal courts — is unlikely to heed calls to step aside, especially coming from McConnell. Moore has said loudly and often that he would vote against McConnell as Republican leader if he gets to Washington.

Under Alabama law, Moore could withdraw from the race, and any votes cast for him would not count. However, the deadline to replace him on the ballot was 76 days before the December 12 election, which has come and gone.

The only possible option for Republicans would be to launch a write-in campaign, either for Strange or some other candidate. In 2010, U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski used that technique to secure re-election in Alaska after losing a primary, although the logistics would be more difficult in Alabama, which has six times more population.

The allegations against Moore also might change the calculations for national Democrats, who have been reluctant to put money into the Alabama race despite polls showing that Jones is within striking distance.

Pressure to go all in for Jones increased after the November 7 election in Virginia, where Democrats swept three statewide races and nearly overturned the Republican majority in the lower house of the legislature.

The imbroglio surrounding Moore marks the second time in a year that a sex scandal has rocked politics in the Yellowhammer State.

In April, former Governor Robert Bentley resigned under threat of impeachment after pleading guilty to two misdemeanors stemming from his efforts to extricate himself from a scandal over his relationship with former aide Rebekah Mason.

Strange was appointed to the Senate seat in February by former Governor Robert Bentley after Jeff Sessions left to become U.S. attorney general. Although state law mandates that Senate vacancies be filled “forthwith,” Bentley delayed a special election until November 2018, which would have given Strange nearly two years of incumbency before he had to face voters.

But after Bentley resigned, new Alabama Governor Kay Ivey reversed course and ordered a special election this year. Moore went on to defeat Strange in a September primary runoff.


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