Republicans who implicitly or explicitly support Roy Moore, the Alabama GOP nominee for Senate, despite the credible accusations that he sexually assaulted or harassed teenage girls as young as 14, tend to point to his support for tax cuts or opposition to abortion and transgender rights. Moore is still in a competitive race against Democrat Doug Jones in part because Alabama is about half evangelical Christian, and many evangelical Christians and their leaders either give Moore the benefit of the doubt or, like Gov. Kay Ivey (R), say they believe Moore's accusers but will vote for him anyway.
The Southern Baptist and other evangelical Christian leaders who support Moore are vocal about it, but the ones who don't, for a variety of reasons, are "reticent," says New York Times religion reporter Laurie Goodstein, who spoke to many of them. And of the ones who are vocal about their support, Earl Wise, a pastor from Millbrook, wins the prize for worst defense of Moore, so far.
"I don't know how much these women are getting paid, but I can only believe they're getting a healthy sum," Wise told The Boston Globe, which contacted pastors on a list shared by Moore and his wife. (Ten responded to the Globe, including Wise, whose church and religious affiliation are not noted, though he appears to be a real estate agent and pastor at Hunter Station Baptist Church.) "How these gals came up with this, I don't know. They must have had some sweet dreams somewhere down the line," he said, adding, "Plus, there are some 14-year-olds, who, the way they look, could pass for 20."
Trump adviser equates Roy Moore's alleged child predation with Doug Jones' support for abortion rights
Republicans may be stuck with Roy Moore as their nominee for a Senate seat in Alabama, but many of them are making the best of it. President Trump has decided not to join other GOP leaders in calling for Moore to quit the race amid credible allegations that he fondled or sexually assaulted teenage girls as young as 14 and pursued sexual relationships with others, and his advisers are coming up with reasons Alabamians might want to vote for Moore over Democrat Doug Jones, a former federal prosecutor. For Kellyanne Conway, that reason was tax cuts; for Trump supporter and former economic adviser Stephen Moore, it was abortion rights.
On CNN Monday night, Moore echoed the White House line that Alabama voters should decide if they want to be represented in the Senate by Roy Moore, who Stephen Moore called "kind of a creep," or Jones, who he said is "no saint, either." Jones, he told CNN's John Berman, "is for partial birth abortion in a state that's highly Christian and Catholic, so there's no moral high ground here between the two candidates." Berman protested, "Except one is an alleged child molester." Moore responded, "Yeah, and the other one is for partial birth abortion, which a lot of people in Alabama think is tantamount to murder."
This guy compared Doug Jones’ position on abortion to Roy Moore molesting children. Yes, you read that correctly. pic.twitter.com/2fbXRIZd1Z
— Renato Mariotti (@renato_mariotti) November 21, 2017
Alabama is 49 percent evangelical Protestant and 7 percent Catholic, according to Pew, but with Roy Moore's moral stock falling, Republicans are bringing up abortion a lot as a reason not to vote for Jones. Jones told AL.com earlier this month: "I fully support a woman's freedom to choose to what happens to her own body. ... Having said that, the law for decades has been that late-term procedures are generally restricted except in the case of medical necessity. That's what I support." Peter Weber
Roy Moore's "claim that the Senate race has become a religious war, and a Christian one at that, has put one group in an awkward position: Christians," say Campbell Robertson and Laurie Goodstein at The New York Times. On Sunday, pastors around Alabama refrained from discussing Moore, the Republican nominee in the Dec. 12 U.S. Senate race, but they've been asked about little else since a growing number of women came forward to say Moore initiated a physical relationship or sexually assaulted them when they were teenagers as young as 14 and he was in his 30s.
"It was a known fact: Roy Moore liked young girls," Faye Gary, a retired police officer in Moore's hometown of Gadsden, Alabama, tells the Times. "It was treated like a joke. That's just the way it was." Now it's out in the open, the allegations "have created a dilemma" for many pastors, Robertson and Goodstein write. "They want to denounce what Mr. Moore was accused of doing, but in many cases they want to do so without denouncing Mr. Moore himself," who's still supported by many in their congregations.
Some religious leaders in Alabama have openly denounced Moore, a Southern Baptist, and called him unfit for office. But most pastors "still endorse Moore, underlining the unwavering support he has received from his conservative Christian base," reports Christopher Harress at AL.com. Pastor David Floyd of Marvyn Parkway Baptist Church in Opelika said he doesn't "believe those women" and called the allegations a Democratic smear.
Pastor Franklin Raddish of the nationwide Capitol Hill Independent Baptist Ministries told AL.com from his South Carolina home that the accusations against Moore are part of a "war on men" that has ramped up with the national reckoning about sexual misconduct. "More women are sexual predators than men," he added, dubiously. "Women are chasing young boys up and down the road, but we don't hear about that because it's not PC." Peter Weber
In a press conference and open letter to Fox News host Sean Hannity on Wednesday, Alabama Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore and his lawyer Phillip Jauregui tried to poke holes in the account of Beverly Young Nelson, a woman who accused Moore of violently sexually assaulting her in his car when she was 16 and he was in his 30s.
Jauregui suggested that Moore's inscription in Nelson's high school yearbook was forged and argued that Nelson was wrong when she said she "had never seen nor had any contact with Judge Moore. As it turns out, in 1999, Ms. Nelson filed a divorce action against her then-husband, Mr. Harris," Jauregui said. "Guess who that case was before? It was in Etowah County, and the judge assigned was Judge Roy S. Moore, the circuit judge of Etowah County." Ergo, "there was contact," he said.
There actually doesn't seem to have been any contact, report David Kumbroch and Brian Lawson at WHNT News 19 in Huntsville. "A careful review of court records and a conversation with Nelson's lawyer in that divorce case confirm Nelson never had reason to appear before Moore." Moore's signature did appear on the motion to dismiss the divorce case, after Nelson and her husband decided to reconcile, "but even Moore's attorney says the signature was stamped by an aide," Kumbroch and Lawson note, and her lawyer at the time has no record or recollection that they appeared before Moore. All the other documents in the case were signed by Judge W.D. Russell. (Nelson and her husband ended up divorcing later, but before a different judge.)
Trump wants 'the people of Alabama' to decide 'who their next senator should be,' press secretary says
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has been in frequent contact with the White House as he sifts through various plans to salvage one of Alabama's Senate seats for Republicans amid the floundering campaign of Roy Moore, but since returning to the U.S. on Tuesday, President Trump has avoided taking a stand on the fate of Moore's candidacy as allegations mount that he initiated or tried to initiate sexual contact with teenage girls as young as 14 when he was in his 30s. At Thursday's press briefing, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump's view is that Alabama should decide Moore's fate.
"The president believes that these allegations are very troubling and should be taken seriously, and he thinks that the people of Alabama should make the decision on who their next senator should be," Sanders said.
She declined to say what proof Trump would need about the "troubling" accusations from nine women before calling on Moore to step down — presumably he sets a high bar — or whether Trump still supports the GOP nominee. When asked Thursday if she still plans to vote for Moore, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) answered, "The election will be December the 12th, and I will cast my ballot." Peter Weber
Roy Moore has a point. He has been in public office on and off since being named deputy district attorney in Etowah County in 1977, so why has no political opponent raised questions before about the sexual misconduct allegations roiling his campaign for a Senate seat in Alabama? The women accusing him of pestering, fondling, or assaulting them have an answer for that. "If anybody had asked, we would have told it," Tina Johnson, who says Moore groped her in 1991, tells AL.com. "No one asked."
It's not clear why nobody before The Washington Post bothered asking, because now that reporters are flocking to Gadsden, Alabama, lots of people have stories about Moore chasing teenage girls when he was in his 30s — at the mall, the YMCA, the courthouse, restaurants. For years, the rumors "simmered at a low level," The New York Times reports, "mostly deemed moderately creepy rather than criminal." "Numerous people pulled us over, Democrats and Republicans, to tell us about their claims of things they say they saw or things they heard about Moore's behavior with teenage girls before he got married in 1985," CNN's Gary Tuchman said from Gadsden on Tuesday, but only one of them was willing to go on camera:
"It was common knowledge that Roy Moore dated high school girls, everyone we knew thought it was weird," says Teresa Jones, deputy Etowah County district attorney from 1982 to 1985. "We wondered why someone his age would hang out at high school football games and the mall." Sue Bell Cobb, a former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice, said she'd heard murmuring of sexual misconduct as early as 2013 and "was disappointed that there had not been more investigative journalism done the last time he ran because I had heard rumors, but I never knew anything firsthand."
On Tuesday night, Fox News host Sean Hannity gave Alabama Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore 24 hours to clear up the allegations of sexual misconduct against him from women who say he targeted them when they were teenagers. On Wednesday night, he was back to talking about the Clintons.
Hannity dedicated a good chunk of his program to accusations of sexual harassment and assault against former President Bill Clinton, but he did give Moore a brief mention, telling Alabama voters it's up to them to make an "informed decision" at the polls. Over the last week, several women have told The Washington Post and AL.com that when Moore was in his early 30s and they were in their teens, he made unwanted sexual advances on them or tried to pursue relationships. Hannity interviewed Moore last week about the first accusations, and on Wednesday night, Fox News legal analyst Gregg Jarrett said it didn't go well for Moore, calling his remarks "incriminating, because he contradicted himself three times."
In turn, Hannity gave himself a pat on the back for not making a rush to judgment, and declared that Moore, who wrote an open letter to Hannity, answered all of his questions. In his letter, Moore wrote he's "suffering the same treatment other Republicans have had to endure," and bragged about the different public offices he has held and the fact he's been married 33 years to his wife. Moore tried to discredit accuser Beverly Young Nelson, saying he was assigned to her divorce case in 1999 and that "apparently caused her no distress," and said the yearbook inscription she says was from him couldn't be because the handwriting was inconsistent. "We are in the process of investigating these false allegations to determine their origin and motivation," he said. Catherine Garcia
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) may want GOP nominee Roy Moore to lose a Senate race in Alabama, but that doesn't mean he wants the Democrat, Doug Jones, to prevail. With Moore's numbers sinking in internal Republican polls, Politico reports, McConnell and his advisers have run through a number of plans to keep the Alabama Senate seat in Republican hands.
McConnell's original favored plan — have Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who held the seat for two decades, enter the race as a write-in candidate — frayed as Sessions indicated that he wasn't interested and National Republican Senatorial Committee polling of the idea apparently pointed to negative outcomes. Another idea, pushing back the Dec. 12 election so Alabama Republicans would have time to remove Moore's name from the ballot, got a thumbs-down from Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R), and was further diminished when the Alabama Republican Party agreed to continue supporting Moore's candidacy Wednesday night. McConnell's latest plan is one of several floated by conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt:
— Hugh Hewitt (@hughhewitt) November 14, 2017
McConnell and his team are "discussing the legal feasibility of asking appointed Sen. Luther Strange to resign from his seat in order to trigger a new special election," Politico says. "McConnell aides express caution, saying they're uncertain whether such a move ... is even possible." President Trump has not offered his opinion on the fate of Moore's candidacy, beset by allegations that he pursued, fondled, or assaulted several teenage girls when he was a deputy district attorney in his 30s. Trump backed Strange in the GOP primary, and he is hesitant to oppose Moore now while he still has support among state Republicans. Peter Weber