People Explains: Who Is Alabama Senate Candidate Roy Moore — and Does He Still Have a Chance to Win?
Moore has been accused of sexual misconduct by five women
Almost nothing about Roy Moore’s candidacy for Senate has been without controversy.
First, he challenged incumbent Luther Strange, who had been appointed to replace Jeff Sessions when he was tapped by President Donald Trump to serve as U.S. Attorney General. During the primary, he waved a gun at an election eve campaign rally, lacked support from the Republican establishment and has called Islam a “false religion.”
But none of that scared off Alabama voters on Sept. 26, who supported Moore in the Republican primary runoff for Sessions’ vacated Senate seat.
The former chief justice for Alabama’s Supreme Court defeated Strange, despite the fact that Moore did not have the endorsement of Trump — and spent far less cash than his opponent during his campaign. (Television spending on ads for Strange was five times that of Moore ads, according to NBC News.)
Moore is an outspoken, polarizing figure with beliefs so strong they have landed him in legal trouble. But now, it’s less his political views that are attracting attention. In the past week, five women have accused Moore of sexual misconduct while they were still in their teens, with one alleging that he sexually assaulted her.
Read on to learn more about who he is, the allegations against him, why he’s been at odds with the Republican establishment throughout his campaign and what’s landed him in legal hot water in his prior jobs.
What are the allegations against Moore?
In a bombshell report in the Washington Post last week, Leigh Corfman alleged that Moore sexually propositioned her when she was 14 years old, and he was 32. Corfman said she first met Moore outside a courtroom in Alabama, where her mother was set to go in for a custody hearing. He allegedly offered to look after Corfman while her mother, Nancy Wells, went into the hearing. Corfman said Moore then asked for her phone number. They met again days later, when, she says, he picked her up, drove her to house and then allegedly kissed her.
The next time they met, Moore allegedly took off his clothes, and removed Corfman’s shirt and pants as well. She said he touched her over her undergarments, and placed her hand over his underwear. “I wanted it over with — I wanted out,” she told the Washington Post of her thinking during the experience. “Please just get this over with. Whatever this is, just get it over.”
Three other women told the Post in the same article that Moore asked them out on dates. The women — Wendy Miller, Debbie Wesson Gibson and Gloria Thacker Deaso — were all still teenagers at the time of these alleged encounters. (Miller was 14, Gibson was 17 and Deason was 18.)
Since then, another woman, Beverly Young Nelson, has come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct involving Moore. At a New York City press conference, Nelson said that Moore assaulted her after she finished her shift at a restaurant where she was working as a waitress. “I tried fighting him off, while yelling at him to stop, but instead of stopping, he began squeezing my neck, attempting to force my head onto his crotch,” she said of the alleged assault at the press conference, according to The New York Times. Nelson also had a yearbook that she said had been signed by Moore, with a message reading “To a sweeter more beautiful girl I could not say ‘Merry Christmas’ Love, Roy Moore, D.A.”
The same day as Nelson’s press conference, an article in the New Yorker was published that stated Moore “badgered” teen girls at a local mall in Gadsden, Alabama, where he earned a reputation for “cruising for high-school dates.” Several people told the magazine they heard Moore was banned from the mall.
What’s been Moore’s response to these allegations?
Moore has denied all allegations against him. After the Washington Post article was published, Moore released a statement calling the allegations “garbage” that “is the very definition of fake news and intentional defamation.”
“Judge Roy Moore is winning with a double-digit lead,” the statement read. “So it is no surprise, with just over four weeks remaining, in a race for the U.S. Senate with national implications, that the Democratic Party and the country’s most liberal newspaper would come up with a fabrication of this kind.”
On Friday, during an appearance on Hannity, Moore told Sean Hannity of Corfman: “I never talked to her, never had any contact with her … Allegations of sexual misconduct with her are completely false. I believe they are politically motivated. I believe they are brought only to stop a very successful campaign, and that’s what they are doing. I’ve never known this woman.”
What are other Republicans saying?
Senator Cory Gardner, who is the head of the Senate Republican Campaign committee, was one of the first big Republican names to come out against Moore. He said that if Moore was to win the election, the United States Senate should expel him.
“I believe the individuals speaking out against Roy Moore spoke with courage and truth, proving he is unfit to serve in the United States Senate and he should not run for office,” Gardner said in a statement. “If he refuses to withdraw and wins, the Senate should vote to expel him, because he does not meet the ethical and moral requirements of the United States Senate.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell later echoed the comments of his colleague, telling reporters in Washington, per CNN, “I believe the women … I think he should step aside.”
Moore responded to McConnell’s statement on Twitter, saying that the Senator should be the one to “step aside.”
Other members of Congress have joined McConnell and Gardner. Republican Senator Jeff Flake said he’d “run to the polling place” to vote for a Democrat over Moore, and that he’d vote to expel Moore from the Senate if he won.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan also spoke out against Moore and encouraged him to drop out of the race. “He should step aside,” Ryan told CNN. “Number one, these allegations are credible. Number two, if he cares about the values that he claims to care about, then he should step aside.”
Senator Lindsey Graham and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who previously held the seat Moore is running for, also spoke out in support of the accusers. Sessions said he has “no reason to doubt” them, according to the Washington Post, while Graham encouraged Moore to leave the race.
However, several Alabama Republicans have spoken out in support of Moore, including Alabama Bibb County Republican chairman Jerry Pow. Pow told Daniel Dale, a reporter for the Toronto Star: “I would vote for Judge Moore because I wouldn’t want to vote for Doug. I’m not saying I support what he did.”
A JMC Analytics poll said that 37 percent of Alabama evangelicals — a powerful force in the state — are more likely to vote for Moore after these allegations came to light, while 34 percent said it didn’t make a difference in their decision, according to The Hill.
50 Alabama pastors also signed a letter of support, shared by Moore’s wife Kayla and published on AL.com, though three later asked for their names to be removed.
Could he still win the election?
Potentially. A new poll published on Sunday favored Moore’s competitor, Democrat Doug Jones, 46 percent to 42 percent, according to the Los Angeles Times. However, history isn’t on Jones’s side: There hasn’t been a Democratic Senator elected from Alabama since 1992, and four of the state’s past governors have been Republicans, too.
But even if he wins, that doesn’t mean he’ll be seated. Senators could, as Flake said, expel Moore from the Senate after he’s elected. However, that could have a serious backlash if Moore is the candidate that Alabama voters choose.
“If the people of this state go forward and select their U.S. senator as Roy Moore, it will be because there is a deep suspicion of what has been coined as the establishment in D.C.,” Alabama State Senator Phil Williams told the New York Times. “And if the establishment then chooses and tries to unseat, or in some way disavow, that candidate, it will create a backlash the likes of which the party has never seen before.”
Who is Roy Moore?
Before these allegations surfaced, Moore was previously best known as the former chief justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court, a position he won first in 2001 and again in 2013. He ran for governor of Alabama in 2006 and 2010, but both times failed to make it past the Republican primary.
He’s also a devout evangelical Christian, and often brought his beliefs into his government work. Just last week, he told Vox the Constitution’s “duty” is “to foster religion and foster Christianity.” He’s been removed from office twice because he defied federal court rulings that conflicted with his religious beliefs.
His controversial comments about several minority groups, including gay people, Native Americans and Asians, have given him notoriety on a national stage. His remarks about the latter two groups, which he referred to as “reds and yellows” in a campaign speech, led him to be condemned by Chelsea Clinton. On the campaign trail in July, he called Islam a “false religion,” according to the Huffington Post.
Also a self-declared strong supporter of the second amendment and gun rights, he pulled out a gun on stage during a campaign event on Monday.
What’s his history with the Republican establishment?
Moore has often been at odds with the Republican establishment, which dates back to his first campaign for chief justice in 2000. His then-primary opponent, Associate Justice Harold See, brought in Karl Rove (who later became a senior adviser to President George W. Bush), to help his campaign, according to CNN. Despite the big-name assistance, Moore handily defeated See and later won the general election.
This time around, the Senate Leadership Fund, an establishment-led super PAC, unleashed several attack ads on Moore, according to CNN. U.S. Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas and the Senate Majority Whip, even told Politico that he didn’t think Moore would be a “productive member” of the Senate Republicans, referencing Moore’s track record on the bench.
Moore himself has been hitting Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell throughout his campaign. In one fundraising email he wrote, “Judge Roy Moore in the U.S. Senate means the END of Mitch McConnell’s reign as Majority Leader,” according to Politico.
And all throughout the primary race, he’s had the support of far-right Breitbart News. He also received support from Steve Bannon himself after the former White House chief strategist resigned from the White House. Bannon hosted a campaign rally for Moore on Monday, where he called out several names of “establishment” Republican politicians, according to CNN. He said: “For Mitch McConnell and Ward Baker and Karl Rove and Steven Law, all the instruments that tried to destroy Judge Moore and his family, your day of reckoning is coming.”
Moore himself called his win a defeat of the “establishment” on Twitter.
What does Trump think of him?
In the Republican primary runoff race, Trump endorsed Strange, who had been appointed by former Gov. Robert Bentley to replace Sessions earlier this year. During a speech at a rally for Strange in Huntsville, Alabama, on Sept. 22, Trump implied that Strange would fare better in a general election than Moore would.
“If [Luther] wins, that race is over,” Trump said, according to NPR. “If somebody else wins, I will tell you, that’s gonna be a very tough race. However, Trump went on to say that if Moore was to win, “I’m going to be here campaigning like hell for him,” in the general, according to the Washington Post.
At the Huntsville rally, Trump did express some doubt, and publicly worried that if Strange lost, it would have an effect on the way Trump’s endorsements are perceived.
“We have to be loyal in life,” Trump said, according to the Washington Post. “There is something called loyalty, and I might have made a mistake and — I’ll be honest, I might have made a mistake. Because if Luther doesn’t win, they’re not going to say we picked up 25 points in a very short period of time. They’re gonna say, ‘Donald Trump, the president of the United States, was unable to pull his candidate across the line.’ ”
But still, on Saturday, Trump tweeted: “It was great being with Luther Strange last night in Alabama. What great people, what a crowd! Vote Luther on Tuesday.”
But since Moore’s win, Trump has thrown his support behind him. Trump deleted several (but not all) tweets in support of Strange, and sent out a new one in favor in Moore, telling him to “WIN” in December’s general election.
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What about the whole Ten Commandments controversy?
Before Moore was running for a Senate seat, he left the office of chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court twice, both in a headline-making manner.
The first departure came in 2003, after less than three years on the job. When Moore became chief justice, he ordered the placement of a 2.6-ton monument of the Ten Commandments in the rotunda of Alabama’s state judicial building, according to CNN. Myron Thompson, a U.S. district judge, ruled that the monument was a violation of the separation of church and state, but Moore declined to follow that court ruling and kept the monument up in the building.
“It is a sad day in our country when the moral foundation of our law and the acknowledgment of God has to be hidden from public view to appease a federal judge,” Moore said of the ruling shortly after it happened in 2003. He ended up being suspended by the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission for his failure to obey the court order. He was removed from office on Nov. 14, 2003, after all nine members of the Alabama judicial ethics panel voted in favor of doing so.
What about his history with gay marriage?
Moore ran for the post of chief justice again in 2012, once again winning the position. And though he didn’t bring another monument of the Ten Commandments into the court building, his second tenure stirred up controversy for other reasons.
In January 2015, the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a complaint against Moore after he encouraged both the governor and the state’s judges to continue to enforce the state’s ban on same-sex marriages, even though it had been overturned by a federal judge. In a letter written after the judge’s decree came down on Jan. 23, he said he was “dismayed” by judges who said they would honor the federal court’s decision. “Our State Constitution and our morality are under attacked by a federal court decision that has no basis in the Constitution of the United States of America,” he wrote.
This letter handed him in front of the judicial ethics board once again, and he was suspended for his actions, according to NPR.
Moore has a long history of fighting gay rights, and has been vocal about his vitriol for gay people. In concurrence of a custody case involving a homosexual parent in 2002, he wrote that being gay “creates a strong presumption of unfitness that alone is sufficient justification for denying that parent custody of his or her own children or prohibiting the adoption of the children of others.” Then in 2014, he wrote to all 50 governors in the United States asking for their support for a constitutional convention to create an amendment to define marriage as between “one man and one woman,” according to Alabama.com. He has called homosexuality a “crime against nature,” adding that it was “abhorrent, immoral, detestable,” according to Vox.
He formally resigned his position in April of this year, but this time, in the hopes of advancing his career with his U.S. Senate run. At the time of his resignation, he was still suspended from the job.
You may have seen an exchange floating around the internet from an interview Moore did with Vox. In it, reporter Jeff Stein asks Moore if he thinks Sharia Law is a danger to Americans. Moore responded: “There are communities under Sharia law right now in our country. Up in Illinois. Christian communities; I don’t know if they may be Muslim communities. But Sharia law is a little different from American law. It is founded on religious concepts.”
When Stein then presses him to name the communities that are living under Sharia Law in the United States, and when this began, Moore tiptoes around his answer: “Well, there’s Sharia law, as I understand it, in Illinois, Indiana — up there. I don’t know.” Stein then tells Moore this is an “amazing” claim for a Senate candidate to make.
Moore responded: “Well, let me just put it this way — if they are, they are; if they’re not, they’re not.”
PolitiFact calls Moore’s claims false.
Who is his opponent?
Now that the primary is finished, Moore will face off with Democrat Doug Jones, who was appointed a United States Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama by President Bill Clinton in 1997. During his time in office, he reopened the investigation into the 1963 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing, and prosecuted the two remaining suspects, Thomas Blanton and Bobby Cherry, who were Ku Klux Klan members. Both were found guilty, according to ABC News.
On Tuesday, he referenced those past prosecutions when he tweeted that he won’t “embarrass” the state.
When is the general election?
Alabamians will cast their ballots on Dec. 12. The special election was going to coincide with the 2018 general elections, but Kay Ivey, the current Governor of Alabama (after Bentley resigned following a sex scandal earlier this year), later changed the date.