In the hours that followed the story’s publication, several of Moore’s fellow Republicans criticized him. But many others, especially Moore’s local Alabama supporters, defended him.
State Representative Ed Henry accused the women cited of being politically motivated. “You cannot tell me there hasn’t been an opportunity through the years to make these accusations with as many times as [Moore has] run [for office] and been in the news,” Henry told the Cullman Times. He said he believes Moore’s accusers should be prosecuted. “You can’t be a victim 40 years later, in my opinion.”
The Toronto Star’s Daniel Dale contacted state GOP officials, many of whom also rejected the allegations. Mobile County GOP Chairman John Skipper told Dale that the report didn’t surprise him. “I think it is a typical Democratic, Democrat, ploy to discredit Judge Moore, a sincere, honest, trustworthy, individual,” Skipper said, calling the allegations “bunk” with “no credibility whatsoever.”
Many leading Republicans outside of Alabama said in public statements they would like to see Moore step aside—if the allegations against him are true. On Thursday, The Atlantic reached out to all 52 GOP senators, and the 20 lawmakers who responded said exactly that. That approach would seem to leave room for Moore to deny the report and continue his campaign.
Other officials and commentators said that even if they were true, the allegations are exaggerated. Joel Pollak, an editor-at-large at Breitbart, criticized the Post’s report in an interview on MSNBC, saying “the 16-year-old and the 18-year-old have no business in that story” because Alabama’s age of consent is 16. “As far as we know, there’s only one relationship that’s been alleged that is problematic,” Pollak said of the encounter with 14-year-old Corfman.
Moore’s alleged activity with Corfman carries serious legal consequences. Under state law, from 1979 to today, the reported behavior might constitute second-degree sexual abuse. Enticing a person under 16 for genital touching is considered a felony, punishable with up to 10 years in prison.
Zeigler, the state auditor, insisted “there’s nothing to see here.” “Single man, early 30s, never been married, dating teenage girls. Never been married and he liked younger girls,” Zeigler told The New York Times. Marion County GOP Chair David Hall told Dale he doesn’t see how the story is relevant. “It was 40 years ago,” Hall said. “He was 32. She was supposedly 14. She’s not saying that anything happened other than they kissed.” The candidate’s brother, Jerry Moore, told CNN that Moore is being persecuted “like Jesus Christ was.”
The American Family Association president, Tim Wildmon, told Religion News Service that the Post’s report “does not change our support for Roy Moore,” and Wildmon thinks others in the faith community will feel the same way. “I don’t think this kind of story will change support for him among Christians since he has categorically denied it. Most will see it as dirty politics.”