MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A federal jury awarded Republican Roy Moore $8.2 million in damages Friday after finding that a Democratic-aligned super PAC defamed him in an advertisement during the 2017 U.S. Senate race in Alabama.
Jurors found the Senate Majority PAC made false and defamatory statements against Moore in the ad that attempted to capitalize on a sexual misconduct accusation made against Moore during the 2017 race. The ruling was a victory for Moore who has lost other defamation lawsuits, including one against comedian Sacha Baron Cohen.
“We’re very thankful to God for an opportunity to help restore my reputation which was severely damaged by the 2017 election,” Moore said in a telephone interview.
Senate Majority PAC funded a group called Highway 31 that ran a $4 million advertising blitz against Moore.
Moore lost the 2017 race after a woman came forward to The Washington Post and said Moore sexually touched her in 1979 when she was 14 and he was a 32-year-old assistant district attorney. Moore denied the accusation. Other women said Moore dated them, or asked them out on dates, when they were older teens.
The lawsuit centered on one television commercial that recounted accusations against Moore in various news articles. Moore’s attorneys argued the ad, through the juxtaposition of statements, falsely claimed he solicited sex from young girls at a shopping mall, including another 14-year-old who was working as a Santa’s helper, and that resulted in him being banned from the mall.
The advertisement at issue in the lawsuit began with: “What do people who know Roy Moore say?” It followed with the statements “Moore was actually banned from the Gadsden mall … for soliciting sex from young girls” and “One he approached was 14 and working as Santa’s helper.” Both quotes cited various news articles.
Wendy Miller has previously testified that she met Moore when she was 14 and working as a Santa’s helper at the local mall. She testified Moore asked her out when she was 15 or 16 but her mother did not give her permission to go.
Moore’s attorneys argued the juxtaposition of statements in the ad painted Moore in a false light and falsely made it look like he was soliciting sex from girls at the mall.
“In their ad they strung quotes together to make a single statement. That’s what the jury found offensive. They got up and lied and said they didn’t intend that,” Jeffrey Scott Wittenbrink, an attorney for Moore said.
The Senate Majority PAC had argued the ad was substantially true. An attorney said they planned to appeal.
“No amount of deflection or distraction from Roy Moore will change the fact that multiple individuals testified under oath to corroborate credible accusations against him. Many others have come forward to make their allegations public, at serious personal cost. We do not think this verdict is the right decision, but we believe the facts are clear and this ruling will be overturned on appeal,” Ben Stafford, an attorney representing Senate Majority PAC, said in an emailed statement.