When Roy Moore’s campaign announced that it would be holding a press conference at 5 p.m. Wednesday, many wondered if the Ayatollah of Alabama had finally lost his nerve. Over the past week, two women had accused the Senate candidate of sexually assaulting them when he was an adult, and they were teenagers. Three other women had alleged that he’d courted them when they were in high school (and he was in his 30s). And many, many Alabamians had said that Moore’s ephebophilia was common knowledge (especially at the Gadsden Mall).
In light of these allegations — and Moore’s refusal to say, unequivocally, that he’d never dated teenage girls when he was in his 30s, during an interview with Sean Hannity — the Republican Party had turned on its nominee in the Alabama Senate race. Mitch McConnell called on Moore to step aside. The chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) called for the Senate to expel Moore, should he win election. On Tuesday, the Republican National Committee cut funding to his campaign.
And, on Wednesday afternoon, the NRSC released a poll showing Democrat Doug Jones leading Moore by 12 points.
But red America’s favorite theocrat isn’t going down quietly. While the Alabama Republican Party held an emergency meeting to discuss removing Moore from the ballot, his lawyers stood before a bevy of “fake news” cameras, and defended the judge’s good name.
“I’ve traveled with Judge Moore all over the state,” attorney Phillip L. Jauregui told reporters. “I’ve been with him in probably over 100 different meetings, and been around probably in excess of 10,000 different ladies in Judge Moore’s presence — and not once, not one time, have I ever seen him act even remotely inappropriate against any woman.”
Jauregui then cut to the heart of his case.
On Monday, Beverly Young Nelson accused Moore of sexually assaulting her in 1977, when she was 16 years old. Nelson corroborated her story by presenting a high-school yearbook, which Roy Moore had, apparently, signed with a romantic message. Nelson said that she hadn’t had any contact with Moore since the assault.
Jauregui said that this last claim was false: In 1999, Moore had presided over Nelson’s divorce. The lawyer went on to suggest that Nelson had forged Moore’s signature in her old yearbook, using her divorce papers as a guide. The tell, in Jauregui’s narrative, was the “DA” at the end of Moore’s yearbook signature. While Moore was an Alabama district attorney in 1977, Jauregui implied that he would never have included that title in a yearbook message to the 16-year-old he was planning to sexually assault — that would be weird.
Rather, the lawyer argued that the “DA” was only in the yearbook because Moore’s signature on Nelson’s divorce papers had been stamped with those letters.
Thus, the Moore campaign demanded that Nelson “immediately release the yearbook to a neutral custodian … so that our [handwriting] expert can look at it.”
On Monday, Nelson had requested the opportunity to tell her story, under oath, to the Senate Judiciary Committee. On Wednesday, she indicated through her lawyer that she would only subject the yearbook to examination in the context of such a hearing.
Jauregui did not say one word to contradict the stories of the four other women who’d accused Moore of sexual impropriety, including the woman who’d accused him of assaulting her when she was 14 years old. He did not refute the many other Alabamians — including one of Moore’s former colleagues — who’d claimed that his predilection for teenage girls was common knowledge. He did not answer a single question.
Moments after the press conference ended, two new women accused Moore of sexual impropriety, bringing the total number of accusers up to seven.