On Thursday four women accused Roy Moore, the Republican candidate for Alabama’s special Senate election, of making sexual or romantic overtures to them when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s.
He strongly denied the allegations, which included one woman’s account of him molesting her when she was 14.
The women’s allegations, published by The Washington Post, exploded like a bomb in Republican circles, where some people called for him to step aside if the allegations are true.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said President Trump believes if the allegations are true, “Judge Moore will do the right thing and step aside.” Vice President Mike Pence also said in a statement that if what the women are saying is true, Moore would be disqualified from serving in office.
Others, however, launched strong defenses on Moore’s behalf, calling the Post’s story “fake news” and “a fabricated November surprise.”
It happened ‘40 years ago’
Daniel Dale of the Toronto Star called GOP county officials across Alabama to get their take on the allegations. Marion County GOP chair David Hall suggested the allegations are too old to be relevant.
“It was 40 years ago,” Hall told Dale. “I really don’t see the relevance of it. He was 32. She was supposedly 14.”
Hall added, incorrectly, “She’s not saying that anything happened other than they kissed.”
When Dale quoted the Post’s description of how one of the women said Moore tried to get her to touch his genitals, Hall said: “Well, she said he may have TRIED to. But we’re talking something that somebody SAID happened, 40 years ago. It wouldn’t affect whether or not I’d vote for him.”
Trust Putin more than the Post
Several Republican officials in Alabama called the allegations “garbage” and “shenanigans” by a media influenced by Democrats.
Paul Reynolds, the Republican National Committeeman from Alabama, told The Hill that something “doesn’t smell right” about the timing of the accusation and the fact that the Post broke the story.
“My gosh, it’s The Washington Post. If I’ve got a choice of putting my welfare into the hands of Putin or The Washington Post, Putin wins every time,” Reynolds said.
“This is going to make Roy Moore supporters step up to the plate and give more, work more and pray more.”
Joseph did it
Alabama state auditor and long-time Moore supporter Jim Zeigler told The Washington Examiner that the story indicated “nothing immoral or illegal,” but “maybe just a little bit unusual.”
It’s not like there hasn’t been Biblical precedent, Zeigler seemed to suggest.
“Take Joseph and Mary,” he told the Examiner. “Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus.”
To which people on Twitter said:
He didn’t have sex with the girls
Zeigler also offered this defense: Moore didn’t have sex with the girls.
One of the women, Leigh Corfman, told the Post that she was 14 when Moore, 32 at the time, drove her to his home in Gadsden, Ala.
She said he took off her shirt and touched her bra and underwear while also guiding her hand over his pants.
“There is nothing to see here,” Zeigler told the Examiner. “The allegations are that a man in his early 30s dated teenage girls. Even the Washington Post report says that he never had sexual intercourse with any of the girls and never attempted sexual intercourse.”
The women are lying
On his radio program, “The Sean Hannity Show,” the Fox News host suggested that he doubted the women’s allegations and wondered if “some people do it for political reasons,” according to Business Insider.
He also cited theories that the GOP wants to discredit Moore.
“You’ve got the establishment and they hate Roy Moore. Roy Moore, to them, is another Ted Cruz, another Mike Lee, somebody they can’t control ... It’s a he-said, she (said),” Hannity said.
Speaking with Lynda McLaughlin on the show, Hannity responded to her comments calling the alleged acts between the 17- and 18-year-old girls and Moore “consensual.”
“Consensual, that’s true,” Hannity said.
He later said he was “not totally clear” in dismissing the allegations against Moore.
The girls were of legal age
In an interview on MSNBC, Breitbart editor Joel Pollak said the Post story included allegations from women who were of legal age at the time.
“The 16-year-old and 18-year-old have no business in that story, because those are women of legal age of consent at the time the relationship was,” Pollak said, stressing that the account of sexual assault from the woman who said she was 14 was just an allegation.
In Alabama, the age of consent is 16.
Moore is a good person
Randy Brinson, president of the Christian Coalition of Alabama, said he expected voters would mostly give Mr. Moore the benefit of the doubt.
“Until I see something different, I would support Roy Moore because of what he says he’s going to do and who he is as a person,” Brinson said, according to The New York Times.