By ALAN BLINDER and JONATHAN MARTIN
GADSDEN, Ala. – Roy Moore, the embattled Republican Senate nominee in Alabama, moved Saturday to discredit the women who accused him of sexual misconduct, and his party’s most powerful figures became increasingly desperate to end a campaign that they worried would undermine their candidates nationwide.
Moore won at least one battle in his efforts to salvage his candidacy – Gov. Kay Ivey rebuffed calls that she postpone next month’s election, which could leave Republicans with a narrower majority in Washington – but his supporters and detractors alike believed that his campaign remained in jeopardy.
“People have waited until four weeks prior to the general election to bring their complaints,” Moore, 70, said during a Veterans Day event in Vestavia Hills, near Birmingham. “That’s not a coincidence – it’s an intentional act to stop a campaign.”
Moore has denied the allegations The Washington Post published Thursday, including that he molested a 14-year-old girl, Leigh Corfman, when he was 32. “I have not been guilty of sexual misconduct with anyone,” said Moore, who added that he has “the highest regard for the protection of young children.”
He won applause at the event Saturday when he said it was “unbelievable” that a “grown woman would come forward” about 40 years after she said the overtures took place, and this close to the election to fill the seat Attorney General Jeff Sessions held until this year. And Moore, twice effectively removed as the state’s ranking jurist, noted that he had long been among the most scrutinized politicians in Alabama.
“I’ve been investigated more than any other person in this country,” he said.
Although many of Moore’s supporters in Alabama share his fury and have expressed it in far harsher tones, Republicans have been abandoning Moore since The Post published its article, which included allegations of sexual advances from three other women.
Beyond their public condemnations of Moore, some Republicans have been searching for ways to short-circuit his candidacy. Some had favored pressing Ivey to move the Dec. 12 special election.
But on Saturday, her office abruptly cut off discussion about the idea.
“Gov. Ivey is not considering and has no plans to move the special election for U.S. Senate,” a spokesman, Daniel Sparkman, said in an email. On Thursday, Ivey said that the allegations were “deeply disturbing” and that “the people of Alabama deserve to know the truth and will make their own decisions.”
Although Ivey’s decision was something of a relief for Moore, other Republicans criticized him Saturday. Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee was unsparing on Twitter: “Look, I’m sorry, but even before these reports surfaced, Roy Moore’s nomination was a bridge too far.”
Moore is a popular figure among many Alabama Republicans, but party officials fear that if he is elected, he will be an albatross around the necks of their lawmakers and candidates nationwide for years to come. In Washington, Republicans pleaded for President Donald Trump, who endorsed Moore’s opponent, Sen. Luther Strange, in the primary, to intervene.
But taking questions from reporters aboard Air Force One as he flew to Hanoi, Vietnam, Trump, who himself has been accused by multiple women of sexual harassment, signaled he was reluctant to reinsert himself in the same Alabama race where his endorsement was so thoroughly disregarded in September.
“I have not seen very much about him, about it,” Trump said, noting that he had put out a statement through his press secretary Friday saying that if the allegations were true, Moore would “do the right thing” and withdraw.
Pressed about the allegations from the four women, Trump declined to say whether he believed the accounts.
“Honestly, I’d have to look at it and I’d have to see,” Trump said. “I’m dealing with the folks over here, so I haven’t devoted – I haven’t been able to devote very much time to it.”
Trump said he was sticking by his statement, which also said that “a mere allegation,” particularly from many years ago, should not be enough to ruin a person’s life. But he did not rule out abandoning Moore.
“I have to get back into the country to see what’s happening,” he said.
Corfman said Saturday that a firestorm of criticism from Moore’s supporters – one of them, a state legislator, suggested that she be prosecuted “for lying” – had not deterred her.
“I stand by my story,” she said.
A lawyer for Gloria Thacker Deason, who said she had dated Moore when she was 18 and he was in his 30s, attacked Moore’s speech.
“He knows full well why these women did not tell what he did to them before this week,” the lawyer, Paula Cobia, said in an email. “As young teenage girls in the late 1970s, they had no way of knowing their rights, especially against him, considering he was a district attorney at the time.”
Cobia demanded that Moore “immediately retract his defamatory statements.”