Roy Moore is sloppily threatening newspapers over sexual abuse allegations

It's not just a distraction; it's a scare tactic.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Brynn Anderson
CREDIT: AP Photo/Brynn Anderson

On Tuesday, Roy Moore’s attorney Trenton Garmon sent a demand letter to the Alabama Media Group, which runs the AL.com website, accusing the company of “defamation, libel & slander, fraud, malice, suppression, wantonness, conspiracy, and negligence” for publishing women’s sexual abuse allegations against Moore. A similar letter has reportedly also been sent to the Washington Post.

The letter, which is full of both factual and grammatical errors, threatens a lawsuit, which would almost surely fail — but it could intimidate outlets and prevent women from coming forward with accusations in the future.

A 1964 Supreme Court decision, New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, sets a very high standard that a public figure must meet when accusing a publication of libel. If Moore actually sued, he would have to prove “actual malice,” that AL.com and the Post published information about him “with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.” Given the thorough investigation that was part of the Post’s original reporting and the other accusation that has come forward, there is no plausible way such a claim would get anywhere in a court.

The threat may still serve as a media spectacle, a way for Moore to try convince voters and loyalists that he is fighting the allegations. But the letter’s sloppily-made complaints arguably make Moore look even worse.

One of the first claims in the letter is that it’s “untrue” that a “fifth woman” has accused Moore of “sexual misconduct or assault.” As the letter later explains, “only two [2] women have made accusations of sexual misconduct.” In other words, the allegations made by the other girls are incomparable, because they were of-age and consented.

The letter claims AL.com inaccurately reported on Moore’s income from the Foundation for Moral Law he and his wife run, as well as travel expenses and accommodations, including his use of a private jet. As DeepStateNation points out, it was again the Washington Post that reported on the Foundation’s finances with extensive documentation to support it, and the private jet claim was made in an ad produced by a super PAC that supported Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL), Moore’s opponent in the primary.

Rebutting the allegations made by Moore’s most recent accuser, Beverly Young Nelson, the letter claims that the signature she has in her high school yearbook from Moore was not, in fact, his. Garmon claims his law firm has a handwriting expert who will confirm the yearbook signature is not consistent with Moore’s handwriting or vernacular. It is unclear that the expert has actually had the opportunity to examine the original yearbook, as opposed to just a photocopy.

The letter also objects to reporting about Moore’s behavior at the Gadsden Mall, including that he was “banned” or placed on a watch list, that he had a “general reputation of ‘predatory behavior,'” or that he “badgered teens and had a general bad reputation.” Those claims largely derive from a New Yorker article, wherein more than a dozen people spoke to the publication about Moore’s reputation. The claim that he may have been banned from the mall (and the YMCA) was first reported by Alabama journalist Glynn Wilson. Gadsden residents further substantiated Moore’s “penchant for flirting with teen girls” in interviews with AL.com and other local outlets.

Many, but not all, of these sources went on the record by name. Teresa Jones, who served as a deputy district attorney for Etowah County at the time — and was thus a coworker of Moore’s — even told CNN that it was “common knowledge” that he pursued teenage girls.

The letter claims that all of this reporting is “careless and/or malicious” and the accounts are “untrue” and “due to be recanted.” It provides no evidence or substantiation to rebut these many accounts.

The letter’s accusations are reminiscent of other false claims that Moore’s wife, Kayla Moore, has made in recent days. For example, she claimed that the restaurant where Moore signed Nelson’s yearbook, the Old Hickory House, never existed, but records show it clearly did. She also promoted a letter purportedly from over 50 faith leaders defending her husband amid the accusations, but many have since spoken out that they no longer support him and that the letter was “copied and pasted from the August endorsements.”

Given the weak legal standing of any potential lawsuit Garmon might file based on these premises, the threat of such actions seemingly only serves to intimidate other women from speaking out or other publications for reporting on their accusations.