The Washington Post has published a story containing accusations of inappropriate sexual advances from Roy Moore against a 14-year-old girl. He was 32 at the time of the alleged incident.
The Post reports the encounter happened in early 1979. Roy Moore was a 32-year-old assistant district attorney.
In the account, Moore runs into the girl, Leigh Corfman, and her mother outside a courtroom in Etowah County. He offers to watch over the girl while her mother goes into a child custody hearing. Here's how the Post details that account.
"Alone with Corfman, Moore chatted with her and asked for her phone number, she says. Days later, she says, he picked her up around the corner from her house in Gadsden, drove her about 30 minutes to his home in the woods, told her how pretty she was and kissed her. On a second visit, she says, he took off her shirt and pants and removed his clothes. He touched her over her bra and underpants, she says, and guided her hand to touch him over his underwear.
“I wanted it over with — I wanted out,” she remembers thinking. “Please just get this over with. Whatever this is, just get it over.” Corfman says she asked Moore to take her home, and he did.
"Two of Corfman’s childhood friends say she told them at the time that she was seeing an older man, and one says Corfman identified the man as Moore. Wells says her daughter told her about the encounter more than a decade later, as Moore was becoming more prominent as a local judge."
The Post also notes that three other women interviewed by the paper in recent weeks say Moore pursued them when they were between the ages of 16 and 18.
The Moore campaign sent out a statement, attributed to campaign chair Bill Armistead, that reads in part:
"Judge Roy Moore has endured the most outlandish attacks on any candidate in the modern political arena, but this story in today’s Washington Post alleging sexual impropriety takes the cake. National liberal organizations know their chosen candidate Doug Jones is in a death spiral, and this is their last ditch Hail Mary.
"The Washington Post has already endorsed the Judge’s opponent, and for months, they have engaged in a systematic campaign to distort the truth about the Judge’s record and career and derail his campaign. In fact, just two days ago, the Foundation for Moral Law sent a retraction demand to the Post for the false stories they wrote about the Judge’s work and compensation. But apparently, there is no end to what the Post will allege. "
To that end, WHNT News 19 has asked the Moore campaign multiple times to clarify which specific aspects of the Post's reporting on the Foundation for Moral Law are incorrect. They have not gotten specific. The Post has reported the Foundation for Moral Law has given Moore over a million dollars worth of compensation and that it has employed multiple members of his family as well. Following the Post's reporting, WHNT News 19 independently found more than $1 million in compensation -- including an uncashed $550,000 promissory note -- paid to Moore based on his statements and Foundation records. The Moore campaign declined to clarify the records we reviewed as well.
The statement from the Moore campaign also says:
"After over 40 years of public service, if any of these allegations were true, they would have been made public long before now.
"Judge Roy Moore is winning with a double-digit lead. So it is no surprise, with just over four weeks remaining, in a race for the U.S. Senate with national implications, that the Democratic Party and the country’s most liberal newspaper would come up with a fabrication of this kind.
"This garbage is the very definition of fake news and intentional defamation."
Although Moore's statement says that the story was fabricated and is "intentional defamation," there is no mention that he intends to take legal action. A successful libel lawsuit against the Post could be financially devastating to the newspaper. But, the Moore campaign statement doesn't suggest a lawsuit is imminent or even a call for a retraction.
Leigh Corfman told the Washington Post she has voted for Republicans in the last three presidential elections, including Donald Trump in 2016. She says she thought about going public as early as 2000, when Moore was running his first campaign for state Supreme Court. However, she says she was concerned her three divorces and "messy financial history" would become a topic of public discussion. She told the Washington Post she worried for her children who were still in school.
The Washington Post says Corfman kept her story consistent over six interviews, and that the paper confirmed through court records that her mother did attend a hearing at the courthouse in February 1979. They also say they determined that Moore's office was down the hall from the courtroom.
The Washington Post article notes that none of the women sought out reporting by the paper. They were contacted by reporters for the outlet who heard allegations while in the state covering the campaign.
"Our reporters were in Alabama reporting other stories about the race when they heard some rumors that I guess had been circulating for a while," said Aaron Blake, Senior Political Reporter at the Washington Post.
"Nobody had been able to get the accusers to talk on the record, never really reported it out," he explained. "The Post talked to more than 30 people for this story, trying to verify facts, nail down timelines, do whatever they could to make sure the accusations were substantiated to the degree they could be."
He added that the Post's editorial staff, researchers, and reporters put in hours of work over a period of weeks to vet the story: "This is something that was run through with a fine tooth comb."
Of why Corfman decided to come forward now, Blake said, "I think the increase in women who have come forward to accuse powerful men of sexual misconduct in recent months played a role in this. I think it was perhaps a matter of someone contacting her at the right time. She said, for example, that she didn't want to come out with this when she had children who were younger and would have to deal with the fallout of their mother coming forward with such an allegation and possibly dealing with some blowback of making that allegation."
Blake said the Post is familiar with victims who may wait years before telling their stories.
"We see all the time that people who make these kinds of claims will often wait years or even decades before being comfortable enough to come forward," he said.
“I have prayed over this,” Corfman is quoted in the Washington Post as saying. “All I know is that I can’t sit back and let this continue, let him continue without the mask being removed.”
Blake said that the Washington Post understands why this story is making such a splash here in Alabama, but argues that it is equally important for those in Washington.
"This is a really important race when it comes to the balance of power in the US Senate. This is not a race that Republicans can lose. If they were to lose this race, it would put the Senate majority in jeopardy in 2018. So it's a big deal for Republicans," he said.
"They've been saying that Moore should step aside if the allegations were true. I think that that's a little bit of a half-measure in this case," he mused. "The likelihood that we're going to get any total resolution about whether this is true seems limited, especially seeing as this is something that happened 35-40 years ago. It doesn't seem that Judge Moore is going to admit to any of this, so Republicans may have a difficult choice going forward if Judge Moore decides he wants to press forward and fight this. Exactly how are they going to handle this? I don't think it's a good situation for them either way."