Allegations of Sexual Misconduct Split Voter Base for Republican Roy Moore

November 21, 2017
Roy Moore

Earlier this month, Republican nominee in Alabama for the U.S. Senate Roy Moore came under fire for allegations of sexual misconduct with minors as young as age 14 in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

On November 9, The Washington Post reported that, while working as a prosecutor in Alabama’s Etowah County, Moore allegedly propositioned at least six women ranging in age from 14 to 17, including pressuring the 14-year-old to touch him inappropriately. The story was corroborated through interviews with over 30 people who said they knew Moore between 1977 and 1982, when the events allegedly took place.

Moore is famous for having refused to remove a statue of the Ten Commandments from a government building in 2003. He had installed the statue himself in 2001, pledging that “God’s law will be publicly acknowledged in our court.” After attempting to subvert federal court orders to remove to statue, Moore was unanimously voted out of his role as Alabama chief justice.

With allegations of Moore’s sexual misconduct coming to light, however, many have claimed that the judge’s infamy predates the Ten Commandments statue spectacle. A number of women have alleged that Moore was known in the 1980s for approaching adolescent girls in the local Gadsden Mall. A number of former mall employees, local police officers, and members of the local legal community told The New Yorker that Moore was eventually banned from the mall and the YMCA for “his inappropriate behavior of soliciting sex from young girls.”  

Now, as Moore faces off against Democratic candidate Doug Jones in the Alabama Senate special election, he has attempted to maintain his voter base in the midst of scandal. Moore and his campaign team have summarily denied all allegations of sexual misconduct, characterizing them as a “last ditch Hail Mary” on the part of their liberal political opponents. On Twitter, Moore himself said that the allegations had roots in a deeper “spiritual battle.”

“The forces of evil will lie, cheat, steal—even inflict physical harm—if they believe it will silence and shut up Christian conservatives like you and me,” tweeted Moore the evening the allegations were made public.

The accusations against Moore divided even his former supporters and party members. A number of conservative politicians and evangelical pastors spoke out against Moore, calling him to take himself out of the race. 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney tweeted that “innocent until proven guilty is for criminal convictions, not elections,” declaring Moore “unfit for office.” Rev. Ed Litton, senior pastor of an Alabama megachurch, told The New York Times that conservatives have to take claims of wrongdoing among those in their party seriously.

“We can’t say, well, that doesn’t matter because some people in the other party do the same thing. These are serious allegations,” said Litton. “And our faith, our worldview, demands that we take seriously the victimization of people.”

A significant cadre of high-profile conservative figures, however, publicly stood with Moore in the face of the alleged sexual abuse of girls. Yesterday afternoon, President Donald Trump defended Moore in an interview with NBC News, saying, “He totally denies it, he says it didn’t happen, and, you know, you have to listen to him also.”

Many of Moore’s evangelical supporters invoked their faith in his defense. Alabama state auditor Jim Zeigler said that, even if the allegations were true, they were inconsequential.

“There’s nothing to see here. Single man, early 30s, never been married, dating teenaged girls. Never been married and he liked younger girls,” Zeigler told the Washington Examiner. “Take the Bible…. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus.”

In the 2016 election, 81 percent of self-identified white evangelicals voted for Republican candidate Donald Trump, who was himself embroiled in scandal last fall upon the release of a video in which he said that fame allows men to grope and kiss women without their express consent. According to a PRRI poll released around the same time as the Trump tape scandal, white evangelicals were the most likely of any demographic to say that “an elected official who commits an immoral act in their personal life can still behave ethically and fulfill their duties in their public and professional life.” In 2011, white evangelicals had been the least likely (30 percent) to affirm that sentiment. In 2016, at 72 percent, they were the most likely of any group to agree.

--by Caroline Matas

Image Source: Roy Moore. Photo by BibleWizard, CC BY 3.0, Wikimedia Commons.