A friend of Senate candidate Roy Moore (R) took to MSNBC Thursday morning and repeated a lie about Moore overseeing the divorce of Beverly Nelson, who has accused Moore of sexually abusing her when she was 16. At a press conference Wednesday, one of Moore’s attorneys implied that Nelson was untrustworthy when she claimed she hadn’t spoken with him since the incident because he signed off on a divorce action she filed decades later. The court filings show, however, that the two never would have had contact.
Mat Staver, head of the anti-LGBTQ hate group Liberty Counsel and 25-year friend of Moore’s, nevertheless repeated the false claim to Ali Velshi and Stephanie Ruhle in a clear attempt to discredit Nelson:
Beverly Young Nelson. She says that this happened and she doesn’t mention about that nearly 20 years later, he was presiding over her divorce with Mr. Harris. She doesn’t raise an issue at all. If someone sexually abused you and now that judge is determining your fate in a divorce case, you would ask for that judge to be recused! And there was a never a hint of that!
Ruhle pushed back that Staver was out of line to draw conclusions about how a victim of sexual assault should handle herself, but Staver persisted:
You know what I would do though? She would have obviously raised that to her attorney. Have we heard from the attorney? No. Have we had any kind of resolution or some kind of objection to him? No. That just, doesn’t make sense at the time.
Ruhle insisted it was not appropriate to draw such conclusions, but Staver repeated the claim a third time:
If a woman’s who’s been sexually abused is going to allow a judge to determine her fate under a divorce decree and never even mention it to her attorney? That doesn’t make sense.
Not only was Staver speaking out of turn with his assumptions about how Nelson might have acted, it’s also unclear Nelson was even aware that Moore was assigned to her case. As ThinkProgress reported, a different judge signed the initial documents in that 1999 divorce action, and because she and her husband reconciled at that time, it never went to a hearing. The only document Moore signed was the dismissal of the divorce proceeding. At the very least, Nelson likely had no contact with Moore whatsoever, if she even knew he was connected to the case.
It’s not surprising that Staver would use a lie to defend Moore. As head of the Liberty Counsel, he has a long history of dishonesty, including several incidents which made national news when he was representing Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. His most dramatic claim was that 100,000 people in Peru gathered to pray for Davis, when in fact the images he shared were from a different prayer rally a year and a half earlier. The very day he had to admit the prayer rally never occurred, he also misrepresented a meeting Davis supposedly had with Pope Francis, claiming the pope encouraged her discriminatory cause, when in fact the visit had been an ambush and it’s not clear the pope even understood who he was meeting.
When Moore, as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, was directly violating federal court orders by directing Alabama probate judges to refuse marriage licenses to same-sex couples, the Liberty Counsel defended him against ethics charges. They were unsuccessful and Moore was suspended, ultimately losing his job as chief justice for the second time.