Roy Moore, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Alabama, swears he’s innocent. “The people of Alabama know me. They know my character. They know what I have stood for in the political world for over 40 years,” Moore declared Monday night, after a fifth woman came forward to accuse him of sexually targeting her while she was a teenager (saying Moore assaulted her when she was 16). “I can tell you without hesitation this is absolutely false.”
To many of Moore’s supporters, this is a powerful message. They believe that if you have the right principles, all other truth follows. Without God, there can be no morality. With God, and with a good man like Moore, there can be no error. This mentality, known in Christian scholarship as “presuppositionalism,” sustains evangelical support for President Trump, according to Molly Worthen, a professor at the University of North Carolina, who explained the phenomenon at last week’s Faith Angle Forum in Miami Beach. People who think this way dismiss inconvenient facts. When the Washington Post goes after Moore, and when Senate leaders tell him to drop out, Moore’s believers rally around him.
Evidence alone won’t pry these people away from Moore. But it can make the task of defending him more difficult. Anyone who claims that Moore is innocent, or that it’s impossible to know who’s telling the truth, is up against a mountain of evidence. Let’s take Moore’s talking points one by one.
1. “I never met this woman.” Leigh Corfman, now 53, told the Post that Moore chatted her up and asked her out on dates in 1979, when she was 14 and he was 32. Moore calls this tale a “fabrication.” On Friday, he told Sean Hannity: “I don’t know Miss Corfman from anybody. I never talked to her. I’ve never had any contact with her.”
That’s odd. Corfman’s mother, Nancy Wells, says she was with her daughter when they met Moore in 1979. She says Moore introduced himself by name. The Post found legal records confirming that the girl and her mother were where they claim to have been, just down the hall from Moore’s office, on the day in question.
Anyone who claims that Moore is innocent is up against a mountain of evidence.
Corfman’s friends also vouch for her account. They weren’t there when she met Moore, but soon afterward, she told them about dates with him, including a sexual incident. One friend recalls details from Corfman’s contemporaneous reports (Moore “wore nothing but tight white underwear”) that match her current story. An ex-boyfriend of Corfman’s says she also told him about having dated Moore. To discount Corfman’s story, you’d have to believe not only that she’s trying to sabotage Moore’s campaign but that she prepared the attack 38 years ago.
Or perhaps you imagine that the Post twisted Corfman’s story to hurt Moore or that her mother is fibbing to protect her. That seems to be what Breitbart, a pro-Moore news outlet, suspected. On Saturday, a Breitbart reporter asked Corfman’s mother to describe the 1979 meeting with Moore again. According to the reporter, “Wells recounted the story essentially the same way she told it to the Post.” She also confirmed that the Post article was “truthful and it was researched very well.”
2. I never dated teens in my 30s. Hannity asked Moore whether he’d ever “dated anybody that was in their late teens like that when you were 32.” Moore said, “It would have been out of my customary behavior.” Then Moore gave a firmer answer: “I’ve said no.” That statement contradicts the accounts of three other women—Wendy Miller, Debbie Gibson, and Gloria Deason—who, according to the Post, were 16, 17, and 18, respectively, when Moore asked them out. Miller was 14 when Moore first told her she was pretty, though he didn’t explicitly court her until two years later. Her story is backed up by her mother, who recalls telling Moore that he was too old to date her daughter. “Let’s not rob the cradle,” Miller’s mother told Moore.
None of these women knew one another. How, then, did they produce similar stories? There are two possible answers. One is that Moore had a pattern of pursuing teens. The other is that the Post orchestrated the allegations. But then you’d have to explain how the Post went back in time and got Corfman to tell the same story to two friends and a boyfriend decades ago. You’d have to explain why Corfman’s and Miller’s mothers would each lie about witnessing encounters with Moore. And you’d have to explain why several other people from Moore’s town, Gadsden, Alabama, are giving firsthand or secondhand accounts, on the record, of Moore flirting with girls. “It was common knowledge that Roy dated high school girls,” said Teresa Jones, Moore’s former colleague in the district attorney’s office. “We wondered why someone his age would hang out at high school football games and the mall.” The Post has no hand in these stories. Many of them are appearing on AL.com, a website for Alabama newspapers. Are all of these people lying?
And how do you explain Moore’s self-incriminating remarks? “I don’t remember ever dating any girl without the permission of her mother,” he told Hannity. Doesn’t that suggest Moore’s targets were so young he had to consult their parents? Meanwhile, Moore claims that the behavior Deason and Gibson attributed to him was “altogether appropriate.” Really? Gibson says she was 17 when Moore, who was 34, asked her out and kissed her in his bedroom. Deason says she was 18, below Alabama’s legal drinking age, when Moore ordered alcohol for her at restaurants. What does that say about Moore’s idea of appropriateness?
3. “This county is a dry county.” Corfman, like Deason, says Moore gave her alcohol when she was underage. Moore says both stories are impossible, because Gadsden is in “a dry county” where they “never would have had liquor.” But that’s not true. The county legalized alcohol sales in 1972, years before these alleged incidents. Gadsden’s municipal code permits liquor sales by “restaurant retail licensees.” The Post confirmed during the time Deason says she and Moore were dating, alcohol was for sale at the pizzeria where she recalls Moore ordering bottles of rosé for their table. (She also says Moore ordered cocktails for her at a Chinese restaurant.) Moore is either misrepresenting or misremembering the law. Either way, his assurances can’t be trusted.
4. “I’ve been married to my wife, Kayla, for nearly 33 years.” Moore presents this as proof of his character. But do the math. Thirty-three years ago, when they met, Moore was 38, and his wife-to-be was 24. That’s a difference of 14 years, roughly the same age gap his accusers describe. Kayla Moore’s bio also mentions that she had “previously been named Miss Alabama US Teen 2nd Runner up.” Moore didn’t just date pretty women who were 14 years his junior. He married one.
5. “I don’t even know the woman.” On Monday, a fifth woman, Beverly Young Nelson, said that Moore had sexually assaulted her in his car outside the Old Hickory House in Gadsden—where she worked and he was a regular customer—when he was 30 and she was 16. Moore says that’s impossible: “I don’t even know the woman. I don’t know anything about her. I don’t even know where the restaurant is or was.”
That denial won’t stand up. If Moore doesn’t know Nelson, why does she have a high school yearbook signed by him (“to a sweeter, more beautiful girl”) on Dec. 22, 1977, just before the alleged incident? And why does the inscription say, in handwriting remarkably similar to Moore’s, “Olde Hickory House”?
You can’t dismiss Nelson as part of a Post conspiracy; she didn’t speak to the paper. Nor can you brush her off as a partisan. Like Corfman, she voted for Trump. Like Corfman, she told her family about the incident years ago, long before Moore ran for the Senate.
Five girls, two mothers, witnesses, court records, contemporaneous reports, and a note in Moore’s handwriting. All the evidence says Moore is lying. For those who have long believed in him, it’s hard to accept he could have done what these women allege. But it’s harder to explain the alternative: that all the witnesses are liars and forgers.
At her press conference on Monday, Nelson recounted through tears what Moore told her in his car after the alleged assault: “You’re just a child. I am the district attorney of Etowah County. And if you tell anyone about this, no one will ever believe you.” For 40 years, Nelson kept quiet. But it’s no longer her word against Moore’s. Now there are other witnesses, with records to back them up. And if they’re not lying, Moore is.