On November 9, The Washington Post dropped a bombshell. In a piece titled "Woman says Roy Moore initiated sexual encounter when she was 14, he was 32," writers Stephanie McCrummon, Beth Reinhard, and Alice Crites detail disturbing allegations from a woman named Leigh Corfman.
Corfman claims that she met Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore in an Etowah County courthouse in 1979, and that he asked her for her phone number. She was 14 years old.
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.
As decades-old allegations of sexual misconduct are often difficult to prove, corroborating testimonies are incredibly valuable. The Washington Post had these key pieces of circumstantial evidence:
- The outlet spoke with two childhood friends of Corfman who said they recall her talking about being with "an older man." One friend even claims Corfman named Moore as that man.
- Three other women spoke with The Washington Post alleging that when they were in their mid-to-late teens, Moore approached them.
- One woman claims that Moore approached her in the Gadsden mall when she was 14, and began asking her out when she was 16.
Another important metric when discussing accusations that arise during political campaigns is affiliation.
According to The Washington Post, "none of the women has donated to or worked for Moore’s Democratic opponent, Doug Jones, or his rivals in the Republican primary, including Sen. Luther Strange, whom he defeated this fall in a runoff election." Moreover, Leigh Corfman claims to have voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election.
For all intents and purposes, these allegations appear to be credibly sourced. Of course, a "credibly sourced" allegation is not synonymous with a factual allegation. However, this type of due diligence gives weight to the accuser and their claims.
On November 10, just over three weeks after he formally endorsed Roy Moore, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) tweeted the following:
Other Republican lawmakers followed suit, rescinding their endorsements of Moore in light of the troubling allegations against him.
While many people were happy to see Lee’s endorsement pulled in the wake of the scandal, others were upset, labeling the senator a "coward" and calling his decision "appalling."
Those who castigated Lee were perturbed because they believed the allegations against Moore were "suspect." Setting aside the claims that followed The Washington Post report, including sexual assault and harassment allegations made by at least four other women, the question must be asked: What was Sen. Mike Lee to do in light of the reports that the candidate he had enthusiastically endorsed was accused of sexually molesting an underage girl?
Lee had four options:
Stay silent, leaving his endorsement in a static position; make a public statement that while the allegations appeared to be credibly sourced, he would require some kind of hard proof before rescinding an endorsement; cast doubt on the allegations, and continue to support Moore; or rescind the endorsement as he did.
If Lee had chosen any of the other three options, the damage to his long-term credibility as a constitutional conservative could have been critical, affecting his ability to positively influence the Republican Party.
If more women came forward to accuse Moore of sexual harassment and assault (which has already happened), thus adding more circumstantial evidence to the case against him, Lee having stayed silent, having demanded more evidence, or having cast doubt on the accusers, would have forever cemented Lee in the minds of voters as the man who sided with an accused sexual abuser and pedophile. Even worse, if the allegations are proven in any way, shape, or form, Lee would be forever branded as the man who stood by a sexual predator.
Following that label, Lee’s career, and thus his ability to do good within the Republican Party, would be over.
What this anger boils down to is Republican voters not trusting the mainstream press. For good reason, conservatives are reluctant to give credence to anything printed in The New York Times, The Washington Post, or anything reported on CNN or NBC. We’ve been burned numerous times in the past. However, we cannot allow scales to cover our eyes because of incorrect or biased reporting from certain outlets.
While many members of the mainstream press have proven themselves untrustworthy, many others have proven the opposite. Just because a journalistic organization contains members who allow extreme biases to impact their reporting, that does not mean that everyone under the umbrella of that organization is corrupt. These are not hive minds, but individual journalists.
It’s reckless and intellectually dishonest to blanket-label The Washington Post as "fake news" because certain journalists who work for the paper have not always been reliable. We must discern on a case-by-case basis what seems factual or credibly sourced, and what does not. To do otherwise is lazy. There will be cases in which separating fact from potential fiction will be difficult or impossible. That’s life. But we cannot summarily dismiss the allegations against Moore because they first came from "fake news" sources.
As for Sen. Lee, cut him some slack. As one of the only true blue conservatives in the United States Senate, he needs to keep his reputation as clear as possible because progressives use anything and everything as a weapon.
The conservative movement needs Lee to make the case for our values. If his record were tainted, his ability to articulate liberty principles and persuade voters that conservatism works for the benefit of all Americans would be severely and irreparably impaired.