Four women came forward with allegations that Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore had flirtatious or sexual encounters with them as teenagers, when he was in his early 30s, according to a report by the Washington Post published Thursday. The most jarring accusation comes from a woman who told the Post that Moore engaged in two sexually inappropriate meetings with her at age 14 when he was a 32-year-old district attorney.
Leigh Corfman, now 53, said she met Moore outside an Alabama courthouse in 1979. She was with her mother, Nancy Wells, who was attending a child custody hearing. Moore offered to watch Corfman while her mother went inside. The two chatted, and Moore asked if he could call her sometime. Corfman gave him her phone number, she says, and the two made plans to meet. Moore picked her up around the corner from her house and drove her to his home:
She remembers an unpaved driveway. She remembers going inside and him giving her alcohol on this visit or the next, and that at some point she told him she was 14. She says they sat and talked. She remembers that Moore told her she was pretty, put his arm around her and kissed her, and that she began to feel nervous and asked him to take her home, which she says he did.
The two met up one more time, Corfman said, and Moore again took her to his home:
She says that Moore drove her back to the same house after dark, and that before long she was lying on a blanket on the floor. She remembers Moore disappearing into another room and coming out with nothing on but “tight white” underwear.
She remembers that Moore kissed her, that he took off her pants and shirt, and that he touched her through her bra and underpants. She says that he guided her hand to his underwear and that she yanked her hand back.
“I wasn’t ready for that — I had never put my hand on a man’s penis, much less an erect one,” Corfman says.
She remembers thinking, “I don’t want to do this” and “I need to get out of here.” She says that she got dressed and asked Moore to take her home, and that he did.
Corfman told the Post she never reported Moore to the authorities. The age of consent in Alabama is 16. It is a misdemeanor offense for an adult 19 or older to have sexual contact with a minor ages 12 to 16. According to the Post, there is an additional statute that makes it a felony — punishable by up to 10 years in prison — to lure a child into a home for the purpose of sexual intercourse or touching. Those laws existed at the time of the alleged 1979 encounter between Corfman and Moore, but the statute of limitations is now expired.
In addition to Corfman, three other women tell similar stories of Moore flirting with and pursuing them as young women. None have accused him of nonconsensual contact, and each was above Alabama’s legal age of consent at the time, but they say the inappropriateness of the encounters — a 30-year-old man pursuing teens — struck them later:
Wendy Miller says she was 14 and working as a Santa’s helper at the Gadsden Mall when Moore first approached her, and 16 when he asked her on dates, which her mother forbade. Debbie Wesson Gibson says she was 17 when Moore spoke to her high school civics class and asked her out on the first of several dates that did not progress beyond kissing. Gloria Thacker Deason says she was an 18-year-old cheerleader when Moore began taking her on dates that included bottles of Mateus Rosé wine. The legal drinking age in Alabama was 19.
Moore denied the allegations to the Washington Post in a statement, suggesting that they would have come up previously if they were true: “These allegations are completely false and are a desperate political attack by the National Democrat Party and the Washington Post on this campaign.”
He later issued a longer response:
JUST IN: Roy Moore campaign responds to "the most outlandish attacks on any candidate in the modern political arena" pic.twitter.com/JAX0kg0HeC— NBC Politics (@NBCPolitics) November 9, 2017
Corfman, who voted for Donald Trump, told the Post she had considered approaching Moore during his 2000 campaign for the Supreme Court but had decided against it because of her young two children and personal history, which included three divorces. The Post also noted that neither Corfman nor the other three women sought out the paper; instead, a reporter had heard an allegation and pursued the lead:
Over the ensuing three weeks, two Post reporters contacted and interviewed the four women. All were initially reluctant to speak publicly but chose to do so after multiple interviews, saying they thought it was important for people to know about their interactions with Moore. The women say they don’t know one another.
The Post also found no evidence that the women had any affiliation with Democrat Doug Jones, who is opposing Moore in the Alabama special election, or with Moore’s main Republican primary opponent Luther Strange.
An Alabama political columnist, however, remarked on Twitter that rumors had been floating prior to the Post’s story.
Heard rumors about this for years. WaPo finally got the story. https://t.co/R9i8cQwBx0— Kyle Whitmire (@WarOnDumb) November 9, 2017
The conservative Moore won Alabama’s GOP Senate primary in September, beating the candidate backed by the GOP establishment (and Trump, though he tried to pretend otherwise) in a special election to fill US Attorney General Jeff Session’s old Senate seat.
Moore, who is no stranger to controversy, is probably best known for installing a monument to the Ten Commandments in the Alabama courthouse (read Vox’s profile on Moore here). He is staunchly opposed to same-sex marriage, has claimed 9/11 might have been punishment for the US distancing itself from God, and has said Muslims shouldn’t be allowed to serve in Congress, to name just a few of his controversial positions. He will face Jones in the Senate special election next month.