VESTAVIA HILLS, Ala. — GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore spoke defiantly Saturday morning at a political gathering in Alabama that allegations against him amounted to “fake news” perpetrated by The Washington Post and political opponents engaged “in a desperate attempt to stop my campaign.”
The Post reported earlier this week that four women said Moore had pursued sexual or romantic relations with them when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s.
“These campaign attacks are false and completely untrue,” Moore told an audience of more than a hundred supporters, who gave Moore several standing ovations during his speech at the Veterans Day breakfast.
“More than being completely untrue, they are deeply hurtful to me personally.” He talked about his marriage, four children and five granddaughters. “I have the highest regard for the protection of young children,” he said.
“To be attacked on allegations for sexual misconduct contradicts my entire career in law. I want to make it clear: . . . I have not been guilty of sexual misconduct with anyone. These allegations occur 4½ weeks before the election. Why now?”
Moore said he has been investigated more “than any other person in this country. To think that grown women would wait 40 years to come forward right before an election is absolutely unbelievable,” he said to a smattering of applause from the audience.
He said that details would emerge soon about the claims against him. “We expect the citizens of Alabama to see through this charade,” he said.
Moore arrived the event Saturday morning with his wife, Kayla, amid boos from about a dozen protesters gathered outside, including some chanting “No Moore.” The former Alabama chief justice refused to answer questions as he walked inside.
“I was horrified,” Lisa Wienhold, 56, who was protesting outside, said of the allegations. “I never liked Roy Moore that much, but when I heard about that, I was beyond horrified. . . . There are a lot of smart people who have been on the other side for whom maybe this will be the final straw.”
“I’m not surprised,” said Lisa Sharlach, 49. “It’s usually the people who are screaming God and Jesus that are the ones with skeletons in the closet.”
Half a dozen Moore supporters acknowledged Leigh Corfman, who said she was 14 when Moore initiated a sexual encounter with her, might have been telling the truth. But ultimately, they said, they do not believe her and are standing confidently by Moore.
“From what I’ve read, it seems like this 14-year-old girl who is now 50-something has a somewhat checkered past,” said Johnny Creel, 56, an insurance broker wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat.
“You have to judge a story like that on the credibility of the accuser. … I don’t think it happened.”
Willie A. Casey, one of the few African Americans at the event, said the story is the “hottest thing going in Birmingham,” especially in the black community. But he said the allegations have not changed his position.
“I believe in his biblical principles,” said Casey, 70, comparing the United States to “Sodom and Gomorrah.” “I think in America, we’ve gone so far out of the Bible, someone needs to bring it back.”
Moore’s comments at his first public speaking engagement since The Post report followed a radio interview with Sean Hannity on Friday in which he addressed the charges of sexual misconduct. “These allegations are completely false and misleading,” Moore told Hannity. He specifically denied the Post report that he had a sexual encounter with Corfman in 1979. However, in the interview Friday, Moore did not rule out that he may have dated girls in their late teens when he was in his early 30s.
Some Republican women who attended the event Saturday said further allegations against Moore could change their feeling about him.
But on the whole, they continue to back “the judge,” they said.
“How come it has taken 40 years for this to come out?” asked Julie Palmer as she sat down inside the library. “Why after all these years?”
Ann Eubank, who helps lead a conservative group called Alabama Legislative Watchdogs, said The Post was part of a political conspiracy against Moore.
“Y’all chose the month before to bring a hit piece thinking you could influence how Alabamians vote. And that’s what makes Alabamians mad. Don’t come down here and tell us how to vote,” she said.
Corfman has said she thought of confronting Moore for years, and almost shared her story during his first campaign for state Supreme Court in 2000 before deciding against it. She worried about how it would affect her children, who were still in school at the time, and was concerned that her background — three divorces and a messy financial history — could undermine her credibility.
Moore, who won the Republican nomination touting his belief in the supremacy of a Christian God over the Constitution, has invoked a defiant tone.
His breakfast remarks occurred as a growing number of national party leaders called for Moore to leave the race before the Dec. 12 election. Two former GOP presidential candidates, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) and Mitt Romney, called for Moore to step down immediately, while Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and Vice President Pence said Moore should step aside if the allegations prove true. On Friday, the National Republican Senatorial Committee pulled out of a joint fundraising committee with Moore, depriving him of a key pathway to securing campaign dollars.
Yet Saturday morning his campaign sent out its own appeal of support for Moore, who vowed he will not give up.
“The Obama-Clinton Machine’s liberal media lapdogs just launched the most vicious and nasty round of attacks against me I’ve EVER faced,” he wrote in a fundraising appeal sent by the campaign under the name of his wife.
“Sometimes I grow tired and weary from the strain of moving directly from slugging it out with the GOP establishment to fighting off the powerful Obama-Clinton Machine’s constant stream of nasty and vicious attacks,” he wrote. “But our nation is at a crossroads right now — both spiritually and politically. . .rest assured I will NEVER GIVE UP the fight!” he wrote.
Republicans have been calling on Moore to drop out of the race even though the GOP wouldn’t be able to get another candidate on the ballot to run against Democrat Doug Jones, who was running a tight race against Moore even before the allegations surfaced.
Moore’s defenders in Alabama and elsewhere have been outspoken in his defense, questioning the Post report and asking why women would remain silent for decades before emerging to tell their stories weeks before the special election to fill the seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Stephen K. Bannon, the former adviser to President Trump who backed Moore in his recent primary against Sen. Luther Strange (Ala.), blamed the press, which he described in a speech Thursday night “as the opposition party. It is purely part of the apparatus of the Democratic Party.”
President Trump, traveling in Asia, has not spoken in depth about the allegations against Moore. But his press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said: “Like most Americans, the president believes we cannot allow a mere allegation, in this case one from many years ago, to destroy a person’s life. However, the president also believes that if these allegations are true, Judge Moore will do the right thing and step aside.”