How Roy Moore Failed to Reassure Voters He Is Not a Sexual Predator
A hazy memory, self-contradiction, and dubious debunking efforts helped seal the GOP Senate candidate's fate.
Roy Moore lost the U.S. Senate race in Alabama last night by 1.5 points, less than the percentage of voters who picked write-in candidates. Add to those protests the Republicans who stayed home rather than cast their votes for a candidate tainted by accusations of sexual abuse, and it seems clear that Moore could have won, regardless of his guilt or innocence, if only he had offered a credible defense. But time after time, Moore's responses to the women who accused him of behavior ranging from creepy to criminal made him look shifty and desperate. Here are some of the ways he made his own denials hard to believe.
Faulty memory. Moore told Sean Hannity he did not "generally" date teenagers when he was a local prosecutor in his 30s but conceded that he may have done so from time to time. "If I did, I'm not going to dispute anything, but I don't remember anything like that," he said. Regarding Debbie Gibson, who told the The Washington Post she dated Moore when she was 17, he said, "I know her, but don't remember going out on dates. I knew her as a friend. If we did go out on dates, then we did." Theresa Jones, who worked with Moore in the Etowah County District Attorney's Office, told CNN, "It was common knowledge that Roy dated high school girls. Everyone we knew thought it was weird….We wondered why someone his age would hang out at high school football games and the mall."
Self-contradiction. A few weeks after telling Hannity he remembered Gibson and Gloria Deason, who told the Post she dated him when she was 18, Moore denied knowing either woman. "I do not know any of these women," he said in one campaign appearance. Two days later, he repeated this blanket denial: "I do not know any of these women, did not date any of these women, and have not engaged in any sexual misconduct with anyone." Moore went from saying he did not recall dating Gibson and Deason but may have done so to emphatically declaring that he did not date them and did not even know them.
In the case of Beverly Nelson, who accused Moore of forcibly fonding her when she was 16 after offering her a ride home from her job at a restaurant in Gadsden, he initially claimed he never met her. "I don't even know the woman," he said. "I don't know anything about her." Later Moore suggested that Nelson must be lying because she did not object when he presided over her divorce two decades after the alleged assault. "There was contact," Moore's lawyer said regarding the woman whom Moore had denied knowing. As it turned out, Moore's limited involvement in the divorce case probably did not require any direct contact with Nelson.
Dubious debunking. Moore's wife, Kayla Moore, shared a Facebook post claiming that the Olde Hickory House, the restaurant where Nelson said she repeatedly encountered Moore in 1977, did not exist until 24 years later. AL.com reporter William Thornton dug up a city directory listing and a newspaper ad showing that the restaurant was in business at least as early as 1978.
Moore's campaign said Leigh Corfman, who told the Post he fondled her when she was 14, lived a mile from the location where she said Moore picked her up for dates in 1979. The claim was based on an address where Corfman's mother said she and her daughter did not live until 1981. The Post found a property theft report confirming that Corfman still lived at the old address as of 1980.
The Moore campaign also cited a Breitbart report suggesting that Corfman could not have talked to Moore on the telephone from her bedroom, as she described, because she did not have a phone in her bedroom. But as the Post noted, "Both Leigh Corfman and her mother have said they had a phone on a long cord in the hallway that could be brought into the daughter's room, where the younger Corfman says she spoke with Moore."
Alabama Republicans who were inclined to vote for Moore, whether because they liked his positions or because they wanted to prevent erosion of the GOP's Senate majority, would have welcomed any reasonably credible assurance that they were not helping to elect a sexual predator. Moore conspicuously failed to give them that.