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Report that Roy Moore had sexual contact with a teen raises questions about his Senate run

Roy Moore, the Republican frontrunner for a U.S. Senate seat in Alabama, is engulfed in a scandal over reports that he had sexual contact with a 14-year-old in his early 30s, and approached other teens for dates. Moore has denied the allegations. Judy Woodruff learns more about the claims and fallout from Beth Reinhard of The Washington Post and Don Dailey of the Alabama Public Television.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The Republican front-runner for a U.S. Senate seat in Alabama is engulfed in a sexual scandal tonight, one month before a special election.

    The Washington Post reports that Judge Roy Moore had sexual contact with a 14-year-old girl when he was in his early 30s. Three other women say that Moore also approached them when they were teens. Moore is now 70. His campaign called the claims outlandish attacks.

    But top Republicans took a dim view, including Alabama’s current U.S. senators, Richard Shelby, and Luther Strange, who lost to Moore in a Republican primary this fall.

  • Sen. Luther Strange:

    They have just come to light, and I have just read about it. And it’s very, very disturbing what I have read about.

  • Sen. Richard Shelby:

    It’s a devastating, nasty story. If the revelations, if that’s true, then I don’t believe there’d be any place for him in the us Senate.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The Senate’s top Republican, Mitch McConnell, also weighed in with a statement saying, simply, “If these allegations are true, he must step aside.”

    I spoke a short time ago to one of the reporters who broke this story, Beth Reinhard of The Washington Post, as well as to Don Dailey, who covers politics for Alabama Public Television.

    We began with how the allegations first surfaced.

  • Beth Reinhard:

    So The Post was in Alabama reporting an unrelated story and heard that Roy Moore had pursued young girls when he was first a prosecutor.

    And another reporter and I spent weeks in Alabama chasing these leads and reaching out to a lot of people. And when we did reach the women who are quoted in the story today, none of them initially were willing to speak on the record. They were all very reluctant to share their story publicly, and it was only after multiple interviews with them that they decided to come forward.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, let me ask you first, Beth Reinhard, about the woman who was youngest, I guess, of all of these when this happened. She was 14 years old at a time when Roy Moore was an assistant district attorney. He was in his early 30s. And what does she say happened?

  • Beth Reinhard:

    So, she was at the courthouse with her mom for a child custody hearing.

    And Roy came up and introduced himself and offered to watch her while her mother went into the courtroom. He got her phone number. He called her. He picked her up a few days later around the corner from her house, and took her to his house, which is in a woodsy area about 30 minutes away, gave her alcohol, and then, on one occasion, undressed himself, undressed her and touched her over her bra and underwear, and had her touch him.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And you report that she told a friend at the time this happened, and then she told her mother years later?

  • Beth Reinhard:

    She told a couple of friends at the time, and they were — you know, reacted sort of negatively, like, that’s not a good idea.

    And so she felt ashamed about it, she felt responsible about it. She just sat with it for many years. She is told her mom when she was an adult, and then, even then, thought about coming forward, but didn’t. She had kids that she was worried about, and it just — it really took a lot of time for her to feel comfortable with her decision.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Beth, just quickly, the other three women alleged what?

  • Beth Reinhard:

    So, they were a little bit older. They were between the ages of 16 and 18, and they say that Roy asked them out on dates, and two of the three did go out with him. They say he didn’t force himself on them.

    But, looking back, they realized it was really inappropriate for him, a man in his 30s, to be asking out teenage girls that he met at the mall or in one case at a high school civics class where he was speaking to her class.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Don Dailey, what is Roy Moore saying about all of this?

  • Don Dailey:

    Roy Moore issued a statement today in which he staunchly denied these allegations. He called them the result of fake news and he said they were designed to attack him politically.

    Roy Moore has been at odds with The Washington Post for a month or so now. He’s been upset about a previous news story concerning his charitable organization, the Foundation for Moral Law, and The Post’s reporting on that.

    And that on top of these new allegations has led him to believe that this latest piece is a hit piece. But, again, he has staunchly denied these allegations.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Don, what does Alabama law say about relations, sexual relations with a minor?

  • Don Dailey:

    We have been checking this afternoon with various officials about what this might mean.

    A lot of people are still saying that they’re looking into the consequences of these allegations and the statute of limitations, those sorts of things.

    And another aspect of the law that’s been debated here in Alabama this afternoon is, could Roy Moore’s name possibly be removed from the ballot, if it came that far? And the secretary of state has said this afternoon that state law says it has to be under 76 days from the election before you can remove a name from the ballot.

    So, the secretary of state here in Alabama said it is too late to remove Roy Moore’s name, should it come to that.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Don Dailey, how are others in Alabama reacting to this, and were there any indications of this before this story?

  • Don Dailey:

    There were not any indications of this.

    I think a lot of people were caught by surprise here in Alabama. Some of Roy Moore’s defenders have actually raised the contention, why didn’t this come out a long time ago, why is it now just surfacing? Because Roy Moore has been such a public figure here in Alabama for so long. Why is it just coming out now?

    But a lot of people are surprised. A lot of people are reacting rather guardedly, saying if these allegations prove to be true, that Roy Moore should step down as a candidate. Others are staunchly defending him, especially his base.

    Roy Moore enjoys a staunch base of supporters here in Alabama, Republicans, conservatives, evangelical Christians who have stood by him through thick and thin through a lot of controversies that he has weathered here in Alabama over the years.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Right.

    Beth Reinhard, is it fair to say The Post is still reporting on this, continuing to report on this?

  • Beth Reinhard:

    Sure.

    I mean, we will obviously be keeping an eye on Roy Moore as a candidate through Election Day and beyond that if he’s elected a senator.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, right now, Don Dailey, what are the polls showing, that Roy Moore is ahead, by how much?

  • Don Dailey:

    The latest polls have him up by double digits, and he has maintained that sort of lead for the last several weeks, since the Republican runoff election here in Alabama.

    A lot of people are waiting with bated breath now to see what kind of impact these allegations might have on his poll numbers. But, again, his base of support here has been very strong and those who support him most don’t think that it will have a significant impact because they don’t believe the allegations.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Don, no hint that he’s prepared step down, back off from running, right?

  • Don Dailey:

    He has made no indication so far that he plans to step down.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Don Dailey with Alabama Public Television, Beth Reinhard with The Washington Post, thank you both.

  • Beth Reinhard:

    Thank you.

  • Don Dailey:

    Thank you.

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