Moore defends himself as pressure mounts
Alabama Republican special election nominee Roy Moore on Friday adamantly denied the allegations of sexual misconduct with a 14-year-old girl in 1979 as the Senate hopeful tries to weather a firestorm of criticism that could imperil his candidacy.
Moore’s comments on Sean Hannity’s radio show are his first extensive public defense since the allegations reported by The Washington Post on Thursday. The paper quoted a woman named Leigh Corfman, who said that as a 14-year-old in 1979, Moore forced her into at least two unwanted sexual encounters — one where he kissed her and one where he touched her and asked her to touch him.
“I don’t know Ms. Corfman from anybody. I never talked to her, never had any contact with her. Allegations of sexual misconduct with her are completely false,” Moore said.
“I believe they are politically motivated. I believe they are brought only to stop a very successful campaign, and that’s what they are doing. I’ve never known this woman.”
The allegations against Moore, the former state Supreme Court chief justice who has a devout evangelical following, have prompted a wave of Washington Republicans to distance themselves from him over the past 24-hours.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has called on Moore to resign if the allegations are true, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee has withdrawn from a joint fundraising agreement with the candidate.
Two Republican senators, Mike Lee (Utah) and Steve Daines (Mont.), unendorsed Moore on Friday night.
Moore’s interview comes as national Republicans are openly fretting about whether the allegations could cost the party the seat, or damage their brand in next year’s midterms.
It’s too late to replace Moore on the ballot, according to Alabama law. So even if Moore steps down, he would remain on the ballot, triggering yet another special election if he wins. And it’s possible that the accusations could sink his bid regardless, delivering Democrats a victory in a deep-red state.
A defiant Moore repeatedly denied any allegations of sexual impropriety with a minor during the Hannity interview, accusing his political enemies of trying to “defrock” his campaign.
But he took a more nuanced stance when pressed by Hannity about the other allegations in the piece from three women who said that they were between the ages of 16 and 18 when he pursued relationships with them as a man in his 30s.
The age of consent in Alabama was and remains 16.
“Debbie Wesson Gibson says she was 17 when you spoke to her high school civics class and asked her out on several dates,” Hannity said. “It did not progress, her words, beyond kissing, according to the Washington Post. Let’s stay on her, did that happen?”
Moore replied that he could not remember speaking to a civics class and that while he remembered Wesson Gibson, he did not recall going on a date with her.
When asked again by Hannity if he “ever dated her ever,” Moore replied: “I knew her as a friend. If we did go out on dates, then we did. But I do not remember that.”
Moore also acknowledged that he remembers Gloria Thacker Deason, who is also named in the report. She said she was 18 at the time of her alleged relationship with Moore.
But Moore also went onto deny her allegation that he provided her alcohol while she was one year below the legal drinking age in the state.
“She said she believed she was underage,” Moore said.
“As I recall, she was 19 or older. That just never happened. I never provided alcohol, beer or intoxicating liquor to a minor.”
Hannity again pressed Moore on the general substance of the allegations, that he was dating teenagers while well into adulthood.
“At that time in your life … would it be unusual for you as a 32-year-old guy to have dated a woman as young as 17?” Hannity pressed.
“Not generally, no. If I did, I’m not going to dispute anything but I don’t remember anything like that,” Moore replied.
As Moore refuses to step down from his campaign, GOP leaders are weighing potential options to ensure he does not become a senator.
The New York Times first reported that some Republicans are looking into whether Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) can move the date of the special election far enough out that state law would permit the party to replace its candidate. But it’s unclear whether Ivey can move the election back since some absentee ballots have already been returned.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) told reporters on Thursday she spoke with Sen. Luther Strange (R-Ala.) about mounting a write-in bid. Strange lost the GOP primary to Moore after he was temporarily appointed to the seat earlier this year, replacing Jeff Sessions, whom President Trump tapped as attorney general.
And if Moore were to be elected, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) said Friday on CNN that the Senate should vote to expel him immediately. The Constitution allows for the House or the Senate to kick out a member with the vote of two-thirds of the body.
Moore is currently set to face Democrat Doug Jones in the Dec. 12 election.
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