Conservatives have long praised Roy Moore as a moral champion

The former Alabama chief justice, accused of sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl, is an icon on the right.

(CREDIT: AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
(CREDIT: AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Shocking sexual abuse allegations against U.S. Senate candidate and former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore rocked headlines on Thursday, a man many conservatives have championed as a hero of traditional values over the years.

On Thursday, the Washington Post reported that Moore had allegedly sexually abused a then-14-year-old girl in 1979, when he was 32.

Speaking with the Post, Leigh Corfman recalled how she had met Moore at the local courthouse while she was with her mother, and how he had begun chatting her up, eventually asking for her number and meeting with her several times. On one occasion, she said, Moore allegedly picked her up in his car, drove her to a wooded area, and removed her shirt. At that point, she claimed he took off his own clothes and began touching her “over her bra and underpants” before “guid[ing] her hand to touch him over his underwear.”

Corfman’s story was corroborated by two childhood friends, who recalled her telling them she was seeing an “older man”, as well as her mother, who learned of the alleged encounter years later. The Post report also named several other women who claimed Moore had approached them for dates when they were still teenagers and he was in his 30s.

Moore was quick to denounce the report on Thursday as a smear campaign. In a separate statement, Moore’s campaign chair, Bill Armistead, called the report “garbage” and “the very definition of fake news and intentional defamation.”

Roy Moore CREDIT: AP Photo/Brynn Anderson
Roy Moore CREDIT: AP Photo/Brynn Anderson

“The Judge has been married to [wife] Kayla for nearly 33 years, has 4 children, and 5 grandchildren,” Armistead wrote. “He has been a candidate in four hotly-contested statewide political contests, twice as a gubernatorial candidate and twice as a candidate for chief justice. He has been a three-time candidate for local office, and he has been a national figure in two ground-breaking, judicial fights over religious liberty and traditional marriage.”

He added, “After over 40 years of public service, if any of these allegations were true, they would have been made public long before now.”

Conservatives have long touted those same moral and religious qualifiers when praising Moore — who first became famous as a judge for his refusal to remove a wooden tablet of the Ten Commandments from behind his bench, and his efforts to install a stone monument of the same in front of the Alabama Supreme Court building — as a hero of the right.

In a 2003 column for conservative outlet Human Events, shortly after Moore was removed from his position as Alabama chief justice over the stone tablets controversy, right-wing commentator and author Ann Coulter praised Moore as a stalwart defender of religious liberty and conservative values and declared him Man of the Year.

“When liberals attacked, Moore didn’t fold,” she wrote. “A lot of conservatives said Moore was wrong to refuse to comply with the court’s idiotic ruling [to remove the Ten Commandments monument]… But if I were a man rather than part of the frivolous, nonproductive chattering class, Roy Moore is the man I’d like to be.”

Coulter claimed that Moore had “lost his judgeship because he did what was right” and “put principle above his personal interest or comfort.” (Notably, in response to the Post report on Thursday, Coulter tweeted, “Whether accusations against Roy Moore are the devil or are true, good time to remind Republicans: HANG ON MY EVERY WORD!!! I told you to vote for [Moore’s Republican primary rival] Mo Brooks.”)

Likewise, in a gushing column in October 2016, Conservative Review columnist Steve Deace named Moore Man of the Year for refusing to allow gay marriage in the state of Alabama, despite the historic Obergefell Supreme Court ruling. (Moore was suspended for his actions and resigned in April this year.)

“I think we can call the race for ‘Man of the Year’ right now. And there’s not even a close second,” Deace wrote, calling Moore a “real man.”

“In this day and age of men without chests, Judge Roy Moore is the archeological [sic] find that discovers a precious relic from antiquity,” he continued. “He doesn’t calculate before doing the right thing, nor does he equivocate afterwards. Rather, he is steadfast in his courage of conviction and commitment to principle. The rate our culture’s foundations are crumbling is further accelerating because of the loss of such men across our institutions and families, including our courts.”

Deace added, “It is a cruel, self-induced irony that one day in eternity some of them will sadly spend the rest of their existence wishing they had listened to men like Judge Roy Moore when they had the chance in this life.”

Others have issued similar praise for Moore’s supposed moral compass, with one friend, former congressional candidate Dean Young, suggesting that Moore is the last bastion of traditional values in an otherwise tumultuous era.

“There is only one guy who is standing,” Young said, referring to Moore’s same-sex marriage stance during a rally at the Alabama Judicial Building in May 2016. “This is ground zero of the culture war in this nation.”

Likewise, during a rally in Montgomery in 2003, Baptist preacher Rick Scarborough called Moore — who was fighting to keep the Ten Commandments monument in front of the Alabama Supreme Court building at the time — a “modern day Daniel being destroyed by the juggernaut of evil.”

“The nation is like it is because the church has fallen asleep,” he added.