The news about Alabama's Roy Moore this afternoon is stunning.
An Alabama woman has accused Roy Moore, the state's Republican Senate nominee, of forcing her into a sexual encounter in 1979, when she was 14 and he was 32, The Washington Post reported Thursday.The woman, Leigh Corfman, now 53, told the Post that Moore took off her "shirt and pants and removed his clothes," touched her "over her bra and underpants" and "guided her hand to touch him over his underwear."
Moore, a right-wing culture warrior who's based much of his political career on his role as a moral crusader, has denied the allegations, calling the report "the very definition of fake news and intentional defamation."
People will obviously draw their own conclusions about the reporting, but I want to emphasize that the Washington Post's article is worth your time. This isn't a thinly sourced article based on rumor and speculation; this is a thoroughly reported piece, written carefully, resulting from extensive legwork. The accusers and witnesses are identified by name, with on-the-record allegations, corroborated by contemporaneous accounts.
What's more, Leigh Corfman isn't the only teenaged girl Moore pursued at the time. The article added, "Aside from Corfman, three other women interviewed by The Washington Post in recent weeks say Moore pursued them when they were between the ages of 16 and 18 and he was in his early 30s, episodes they say they found flattering at the time, but troubling as they got older."
And while I don't doubt Moore's defenders will accuse the women of participating in a smear campaign just weeks before Alabama's U.S. Senate special election, at this point there's no evidence to suggest that's the case. Corfman, for example, is a Trump voter.
OK, so now what?
Not long after the Post's article was published online, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called on Moore to "immediately step aside." A variety of other prominent Senate Republicans -- including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and NRSC Chairman Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) -- said Moore should withdraw from the race "if these allegations are true." Alabama's senior senator, Republican Richard Shelby added when asked about the allegations, "If that's true, I don't believe there'd be any place for him in the United States Senate"
What it would take to convince them that the accounts are accurate is unclear.
Closer to home, however, Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler (R), a Moore supporter, said, "Even if you accept the Washington Post's report as being completely true, it's much ado about very little."
In other words, voters shouldn't care about a 32-year-old man having a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old girl.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), meanwhile, who won her 2010 re-election campaign by way of a write-in bid, said this afternoon that she's spoken to Sen. Luther Strange (R-Ala.) about launching a write-in campaign of his own.
That would be the legally necessary course, because at this point, Moore's name will remain on the Dec. 12 ballot, even if he decided to quit. NBC News' report added, "Alabama law states that a general election candidate must withdraw 76 days before the date of the election to be removed from the ballot. If a candidate withdraws after that deadline, his or her name must remain on the ballot but no votes for the candidate can be certified. As of Thursday, the special election was only 33 days away."
Nevertheless, GOP senators are once again confronted with a test. We already knew that Roy Moore is a theocrat who believes he can ignore federal court rulings he doesn't like, homosexuality should be criminalized, religious minorities he disapproves of should be barred from serving in Congress, and the 9/11 attacks were brought on by Americans' sinful ways. On top of all of this, there's now evidence that Moore pursued relationships with teenagers when he was in his 30s.
The lingering question hasn't changed: will Senate Republicans, en masse, support literally any candidate with an "R" after his or her name?