On Thursday, The Washington Post published a bombshell report with the stories of four women who say that Roy Moore, the Republican nominee in the Alabama Senate race, pursued them sexually when he was in his 30s and they were between the ages of 14 and 18.
All four women are on the record, with their names and photographs appearing in the story.
Leigh Corfman was 14 when she met Moore, who was then a 32-year-old district attorney. At one point, she said, he drove her to his home in the woods and undressed her.
“I wanted it over with — I wanted out,” she said she remembered thinking. “Please just get this over with. Whatever this is, just get it over.”
The Alabama Senate special election is Dec. 12. Much of the GOP establishment did not back Moore in the primary, but it has largely said it will stand by him for the general election. Some officials have endorsed Moore, while others have simply said they are fine with the outcome if it’s what Republicans in Alabama want.
But there’s no hiding now, with the Washington Post story. Reporters immediately pressed GOP senators to comment on the revelations. While they said the women’s stories sounded horrifying, nearly all of them added a caveat: Moore should step down “if” the allegations are true.
“If these allegations are found to be true, Roy Moore must drop out of the Alabama special Senate election,” said Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
“If these allegations are true, there is no place for Roy Moore in the United States Senate,” said Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.).
“If it is true, I don’t think his candidacy is sustainable, but we believe in a presumption of innocence until proven guilty and so I think it’s important for the facts to come out,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) told reporters. “It’s not just an allegation, it’s a story. There has to be something more to it so I’m interested in seeing what substantiation there is for the story.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) ― who worked to oppose Moore in the primary and did not want him to become the nominee ― said, “If these allegations are true, he must step aside.”
It’s not clear what additional evidence Republicans would need in order to completely disavow Moore. Four women are on the record with stories about the former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. Other people back up their stories.
What more do GOP senators need to see? Would anything short of a full confession from Moore be insufficient? (Moore’s campaign called the report “completely false” and “a desperate political attack by the National Democrat Party and the Washington Post.”)
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was one of the few senators to say, unequivocally, that Moore should not be elected.
It’s possible that more senators will join McCain as they digest the news and read the allegations more closely.
And there may be another political calculation in play: Moore was backed by Steve Bannon, the far-right former aide to President Donald Trump who runs Breitbart News. Most GOP senators aren’t happy about Bannon’s attempts to oust many of them from office in his quest to upend the Washington establishment, so losing Moore ― and weakening Bannon ― might not be the worst thing to happen to them. For that reason, they might be willing to throw him overboard.
Then again, many in the GOP establishment didn’t much like Trump either. Yet despite a number of women publicly accusing him of sexual assault, he became president and continues to have the support of his party.
“Trump is president,” said Kate Messervy, 30, a native of Huntsville, Alabama, and a volunteer for the campaign of Doug Jones, Moore’s Democratic opponent in the special election. “Nope, this won’t change Republicans’ minds. Grabbing women by the pussy didn’t sway votes. This won’t sway anyone.”
Andy Campbell contributed reporting.