A Critical Perspective on the Accusations Against Roy Moore
Let me be clear that I’m hoping that Doug Jones defeats Roy Moore in the upcoming special election for the Jeff Sessions’ vacated senate seat. A Democratic victory would shore up the possibility that the rapacious Republican tax bill can be turned back — and would likely protect us from future regressive Republican efforts to further feather the nests of the plutocrats who buy their services.
But I would like to see Moore defeated on the basis of his policy positions — not on the basis of slanderous lies and ginned up hysteria.
This article by Colorado journalist Joy Overbeck gives a good summary and analysis of the child abuse allegations which Moore now faces. I commend it to you attention:
It seems clear that, as a man in his early 30s, Roy Moore had a strong sexual attraction to girls of high school age, and attempted to date some of them. Some of the girls Moore approached found his attention unwanted and “creepy”. But, as Overbeck notes, the mothers of most of the girls whom Moore dated seemed happy with Moore’s interest in their daughters. It doesn’t seem to have been particularly verboten at the time for very young ladies to date and sometimes marry significantly older men — and Moore, a graduate of West Point and law school, was likely to be considered a good match. It is key to note that the age of consent in Alabama is just 16.
Of the first four accusers that came forward, the most problematic for Moore is the one that was 14 years old at the time, Leigh Corfman. Overbeck recites the facts according to Corfman. Corfman alleges that she had informed Moore that she was 14, and in any case it was Moore’s obligation to determine her age if he had sexual intentions. It clearly was inappropriate and illegal for a grown man to sexually fondle a 14-year-old girl, even if the girl did not object. However, when Moore wanted to go further than Corfman did, she said NO, and Moore drove her home. Moore may have intended to commit statutory rape, but he didn’t, and we have no idea how far things might have gone if Leigh had been more willing. Defenders of Moore have pointed to a few small discrepancies in Corfman’s account — Corfman’s mom denies that Leigh had had a phone in her bedroom, and the “nearby” corner at which Moore was to pick up Leigh was in fact about a mile from her home — but Corfman couldn’t have been expected to have photographic recall of an incident that occurred 40 years ago. She would however likely remember if she had been undressed and fondled by an older man. Conversely, Moore denies ever knowing Corfman, but his recall could also be hazy, or he could have reasons for not remembering.
To my mind, this is the strongest credible allegation of misconduct on Moore’s part. Voters in Alabama can weigh whether this 40-year-old alleged transgression, which does not seem to have been typical of his behavior in later years, is strong enough grounds to deny him their vote. And some may find it morally offensive — even if it was legal — for a man in his 30s to pursue girls in their later teens; this also can inform their voting choice. (In this latter regard, it should be noted that Moore ultimately ended up marrying one of Beverly Nelson’s classmates, and their 32-year marriage has to all accounts been successful — so it shouldn’t automatically be assumed that Moore’s intentions were wholly exploitative.)
The real reason I am interested in the Moore case are the subsequent charges leveled by Beverly Nelson and her attorney Gloria Allred. These are far graver allegations. Effectively, Moore has been charged with brutal attempted rape of a 16 year old. If Moore or anyone else had actually done what Nelson alleges, he should never be elected dog catcher, let alone Senator — and should face prison time if the statute of limitations hadn’t run out. When the initial accusations against Moore were made in the Washington Post, opinion on their gravity was mixed, with many Moore supporters, including some Fox News commentators standing by him. But the accusations made by Nelson understandably triggered a tidal wave of condemnation of Moore, with almost all commentators demanding that he step aside.
But there are many reasons to suspect that Nelson’s charges are an extremely vile fabrication.
Most telling is the signature in Nelson’s yearbook, presented by Allred as corroborating evidence: “Roy Moore D.A.” Moore was not D.A. at the time, but an assistant D.A. Furthermore, he maintains that he never put the initials D.A. after his signature, and so far no evidence has emerged to contradict this. However, when Moore was a judge, his secretary Delbra Adams would often use a stamp to affix his signature on pro-forma documents, and then would write a slash followed by her initials D.A. to indicate that she had signed the document for him in his absence. It is unlikely to be a total coincidence that the decision in Beverly Moore’s divorce motion in 1999 — a copy of which she likely would have — includes precisely such a stamped signature made by Delbra Adams. Evidently, if Nelson wanted to forge Moore’s signature in her yearbook, she could have used the signature on her divorce decision as a guide — leading her to add the D.A., inaccurately assuming that this referred to District Attorney. The signature in the yearbook is very similar in the formation of the letters — including the appended D.A. — to that in the divorce decision, with the exception that the middle initial S. is omitted from the yearbook signature. Also, the slash is omitted, as Nelson wouldn’t have understood the meaning of that.
Moreover, why would Moore append the name of the restaurant he was in — “Olde Hickory House” — under his signature? How often, when you inscribe a book to a friend, do you add the name of the building you were in at the time? Whereas you might well do that if you were concocting corroboration for a phony story you were pushing.
A further key point: it should be an easy matter for the appropriate experts to determine whether that signature was made recently — which it likely would be if Nelson is trying to frame Moore — or whether it might indeed be 40 years old. Moore’s attorney quite reasonably has asked that the yearbook be turned over to the custody of a neutral party, who would then allow it be examined by experts chosen by Moore and also by Allred (if she wished). Allred has refused this quite reasonable — and rather urgent — request, insisting instead that she would only allow it to be examined in the context of an inquiry before a senatorial committee — without explaining how or why such a committee could be convened prior to the upcoming election. Presumably if Moore were elected, an ethics committee could investigate him — but that presupposes his election, which likely would not happen if most people believed Nelson’s story.
If Nelson and Allred are sincere, then they should be eager to grasp this opportunity to put to rest the reasonably credible claim that the yearbook signature is a recent forgery. The fact that they instead appear to be stonewalling is very concerning indeed. In her defense, Allred has (correctly) noted that, even if the inscription proved to have been a fake or altered, this wouldn’t inherently disprove Nelson’s story. But if Nelson is lying about the yearbook, why should anyone believe an otherwise wholly uncorroborated account by a documented fabricator of an event which allegedly occurred 40 years ago and has never been reported until now?
There are other aspects of Nelson’s story that appear dubious. For one thing, the attack described by Nelson — involving locking her in the car, attempting to choke her, and trying to force her to provide oral sex — are far more brutal than the other allegations. The other claims involve consensual acts — with the proviso that a 14-year-old can’t legally provide consent. (Nonetheless, when she said NO, he stopped.) Nothing in Moore’s previous or subsequent career suggests that he could act with such brutality (aside from the brutality inherent in being a Republican).
Moreover, Nelson’s story seems histrionic and rehearsed — in marked contrast to the recent interview of Leigh Corfman. Nelson claims that she has “lived in fear for 40 years”. While it is understandable that Nelson might not have gone to the authorities at the time — fearing that she wouldn’t be believed and might only reap retaliation — wouldn’t she have told her relatives or her close friends about this if it had been as traumatic an experience as she maintains? Yet so far she has presented no corroborative testimony from others in her life (whereas an old friend of Corfman’s has come forward to vouch for the fact that Leigh told her she was dating an older man at the time). Indeed, Nelson’s stepson has made a video in which he maintains his firm belief that she is lying, and an old boyfriend at the time — now a minister in Thailand — has likewise stated in a Skype interview that he does not believe her. Very odd indeed.
And blowhard commentator Rush Limbaugh has brought up an interesting point. Nelson claimed that Moore locked her in the car so that she couldn’t get out. But this would have required the presence of child safety locks in Moore’s car. Limbaugh inquired as to when child locks came into use in the auto industry, and was informed that they hadn’t been required until the early 1980s — whereas Moore’s alleged assault on Nelson occurred in 1977.
Additionally, whereas Nelson stated that she was a waitress at the Olde Hickory House restaurant at the time of the assault, another woman who worked at that restaurant at that time says that she never saw Nelson working there as a waitress; and other former waitresses state that the restaurant had a policy against hiring young people under 16 –whereas Nelson claims she was 15 when she started work there.
Furthermore, rumors that Moore had been banned from the local mall owing to his inappropriate flirtatious behavior with young girls, have not been verified, and one former guard at the mall says that there was indeed a local bigshot who had been banned from the mall at the time — but it wasn’t Moore.
Suffice it to say that there are a number of grounds for doubting the veracity of Nelson’s story. And the fact that Allred appears to be stonewalling in regard to allowing expeditious analysis of the allegedly corroborating yearbook inscription casts real doubt on the veracity of Nelson and Allred. Needless to say, a false allegation of attempted rape, especially when used against a candidate shortly before an upcoming election, would be a crime far more grievous than any Moore is likely to have committed.
And yet most elements of the mainstream media are treating Nelson’s claims as accepted fact. When potential counterevidence is even mentioned, it is treated with ridicule. For example, Chris Cillizza of CNN has referred to the request by Moore’s attorney that the yearbook inscription be professionally examined as “appalling”.
Consider the precedent that this may set: Weeks before an election, a candidate is hit with an accusation of gross misconduct, backed up only by some allegedly collaborating evidence that the press hypes as proof of guilt — yet the accuser refuses to allow the evidence to be subjected to reasonable tests for veracity, and the press ignores signs that the evidence may be fake. It’s easy to write off concern in this case if we don’t like Moore and prefer for him to lose his election. But what if your favorite politician is the next target of this repugnant type of scam?