Roy Moore’s problem — now we believe the victim’s story

Leigh Corfman has shaken the political world. A month before the special election for a vacant Alabama Senate seat, Corfman accused Republican candidate Roy Moore of molesting her when she was 14 years old and Moore was a 32-year-old assistant district attorney. Three other women disclosed Moore had pursued them when they were between the ages of 16 and 18. In one case, the woman said Moore also bought her liquor even though she was underage. None of the three women claim Moore attempted to force himself sexually on them but the encounters left them uncomfortable.

Had this happened even a few years ago, Moore would simply have denied the accusation. His proxies would have attacked the accuser’s credibility; the press would have treated this as a one-day his-word-against-hers story — and by Election Day few voters would even remember the allegation. 

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But in the Weinstein era a denial and a counterattack doesn’t cut it. Too many women have come forward with too many detailed, credible and appalling allegations against prominent men to be waved away.

 

In the court of disgusted public opinion, the presumption of innocence has been offset by a presumption of victim credibility in circumstances like Corfman’s, who has no motive to lie. That dynamic is now working against Moore. 

Moore and his defenders actually bolstered that presumption by making statements so weird that they brought to mind the responses of Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey to charges that they were sexual predators.

Weinstein denied “any allegations of non-consensual sex,” but then stated that, “I appreciate the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it.” 

Spacey, accused of a sexual assault by actor Anthony Rapp, insisted that, while he was "beyond horrified to hear [Rapp's] story," he couldn’t recall whether he had engaged in such behavior. But “if I did behave then as he describes, I owe him the sincerest apology.” Translation: we are deeply remorseful for the terrible conduct we didn't engage in or somehow can't recall. 

In that spirit, Roy Moore and his supporters made statements so cringe-inducing as to reinforce Leigh Corfman’s credibility.

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On Sean Hannity’s radio show, Moore admitted that, “after my return from the military, I dated a lot of young ladies.” When specifically asked if he had dated teenagers while in his 30s, Moore stated, “It would have been out of my customary behavior," but then assured listeners that he hadn’t dated “any girl without the permission of her mother."

If you are dating girls so young that their mother’s permission is needed, it’s a pretty good bet that they are teenagers. In fact, a former colleague of Moore’s from the district attorney’s office recently disclosed that it was common knowledge that Moore dated teenagers, which people thought was “weird.” 

In trying to explain why a grown man would want to date teenagers, Alabama State Auditor Jim Ziegler managed to make the women’s allegations that much more credible. He actually argued that Moore should be judged by Hollywood behavior. "Humphrey Bogart started dating Lauren Bacall when she was a teenager," Ziegler explained, referring to the then-19-year-old actress.

Or, the voting public could look to Biblical dating standards. “Take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus.” Bible scholars immediately pointed out that Mary’s age isn’t mentioned in the Bible and that under ancient norms it was not uncommon for girls as young as 12 to marry, which certainly doesn’t help Moore.

The allegations gave Moore’s Democratic opponent, Doug Jones, until now trailing badly in the polls, a terrific boost and the race is even. But what may be more enduring and important than one election is that the outing of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual predations are a game changer for women who allege that powerful men sexually assaulted them. They are victims and they are being listened to. 

There is no better evidence than Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenators introduce bill to overhaul sexual harassment policy The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — Republicans see some daylight in midterm polling Exclusive: Bannon says Rosenstein could be fired 'very shortly' MORE advising that Moore step aside, knowing it could cost him a GOP vote. McConnell’s view: “I believe the women.”

Gregory J. Wallance is a writer, lawyer, former federal prosecutor and author of the forthcoming: “The Woman Who Fought An Empire: Sarah Aaronsohn and Her Nili Spy Ring.” Follow on Twitter at @gregorywallance