By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
A new poll by CBS News finds that 71 percent of Alabama Republicans believe the allegations against Roy Moore are false. Of those surveyed, 92 percent of Republicans who don’t believe the claims against Moore think, “Democrats are behind the charges,” and 88 percent say, “newspapers and the media are behind them.” When reports leave gaps in a story or cite inaccuracies as fact, it’s not surprising that a vast majority of Republicans doubt what they read in the news and hear on television.
The Washington Post story that first reported allegations against Moore contains some curious omissions and a significant anomaly among the accounts given by the women quoted in the piece. In the Post report, there is one allegation of sexual misconduct with a minor, Leigh Corfman, who they claim was 14 at the time she met Moore. Of the others who spoke on the record with the Post, two of the women said they dated Moore, with their mother’s permission. One of those two mentioned Moore brought her drinks when she was 18, and the legal age for drinking was 19. One said she met Moore when she was 14-years-old, but he did not ask her mother if he could date her until she was 16, the legal age of consent.
Just this past week, an Alabama news outlet published a column in which the writer states, “Americans are wondering whether accusations of sexual assault and child molestation by nine women against Republican candidate and former Alabama State Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore will tip the election to Democratic candidate Doug Jones.”
This is just one of many examples where media groups have televised or published false and misleading statements about Moore’s accusers.
There are not nine women who accused Moore of sexual assault or child molestation. Of the nine women being reported as “Moore accusers,” only three have alleged him with sexual assault. One of those being a woman who says Moore “grabbed” her backside when she was 28-years-old and in the presence of her mother.
Two of the other women said they dated Moore. The others only claim that Moore pursued them when they were of the age of consent.
Leigh Corfman and Beverly Young Nelson have accused Moore of sexual wrongdoing.
Was Marjorie Leigh Corfman 14 when she met Moore?
According to the original report by the Washington Post, Marjorie Leigh Corfman was 14-years-old when she met Moore at the Etowah County Court House in 1979. The reporters say they confirmed the date Corfman met Moore using divorce records showing a child custody hearing on Feb. 21, 1979.
Nearly 16 paragraphs into the account, the Post writers say they “confirmed that [Corfman’s] her mother attended a hearing at the courthouse in February 1979 through divorce records.”
If the reporters had looked a few pages further into the court documents, they would have discovered that Corfman’s mother was present at another child custody hearing on Aug. 6, 1980.
Why does it matter if the day when Corfman met Moore was Feb. 21, 1979, or Aug. 6, 1980? It makes a legal difference because Corfman, born in May 1964, would have been 16-years-old at the 1980 custody hearing, which is the legal age for consent.
In the Post story, Corfman’s mother, Nancy, confirms she was at a child custody hearing in February 1979 but never says that was the time Moore offered to sit with her daughter.
The court records the Post refers to also show that Corfman was living with her father in Ohatchee in March 1979, not in Gadsden where Corfman said Moore, “picked her up around the corner from her house in Gadsden.” – There was an eleven-day window from Feb. 21, 1979, until March 4, 1979, before Corfman moved to live with her father due to her behavioral problems.
However, if Corfman first encountered Moore outside an Etowah County courtroom on Aug. 6, 1980, then her account fits not only her living with her mother in Gadsden, but it also fits the other womens’ accounts.
Why did the Post not mention the 1980 hearing when Corfman was 16-years-old?
Another curious part of the November Post piece is the inclusion of Corfman’s attorney who represented her until recently. On the day the Post story broke, AL.com published a statement from Leigh Corfman’s attorney, Eddie Sexton, that “Corfman has wanted to publicly talk about the time in 1979 when Moore dated her, but never felt like it was the right time.” Sexton also said that “Corfman had been talking with reporters from the Washington Post for several weeks.”
How long before the Post story broke was Sexton serving as Corfman’s attorney? Who recommended Sexton, and who paid him?
These are the kinds of unanswered questions that lead Alabama Republicans to conclude that Democrats are working behind the scene to discredit Moore.
The Post says Corfman was 14 when she dated Moore and he allegedly removed her clothes and partially exposed himself, which is an anomaly. All of the other women who dated Moore during this period were over 16 and said nothing sexual ever happened between them and Moore.
Why did the Post ignore the second custody hearing in 1980? By their own admission, the reporters verified they saw the divorce papers. When did they see them, and who led them to the records?
These unanswered question leave many Republican voters with doubts about the accuracy or fairness in some media reports.
None of this is to disparage Corfman but rather to understand why Alabama Republicans don’t trust the media or Democrats.
Moore has denied all allegations against him.
Of course, those who doubt Moore’s accusers are quickly labeled as ignorant, stupid or worse, not only by those in national media but in state-run news outlets, as well. As a columnist, political historian and TV personality, Steve Flowers has often said, “Alabamians simply resent outside liberals getting involved in their politics.” However, in this case, it’s not just liberal outsiders but a chorus of homegrown opinion writers who have denounced Moore as a child molester, and pedophile without distinction between the words meaning.
When reports are left with gaping holes and news sites publish lies as fact, there is little reason for state Republicans to believe what they hear from the media.
This report is not meant to dismiss Leigh Corfman’s or Beverly Young Nelson’s stories, but there are blanks that surely their lawyers can fill in for those unbelievers.