Roy Moore and his defenders have questioned the timing of a Washington Post story that includes the first-hand account of a woman who said that Moore, now 70, initiated an intimate sexual encounter with her when he was 32 years old and she was 14. “To think grown women would wait 40 years before a general election to bring charges is unbelievable,” he said on Saturday, two days after the newspaper reported its interview with Leigh Corfman, the alleged victim, as well as three other women who said Moore “pursued” them when they were between 16 and 18. Dinesh D’Souza tweeted a similar message with a baseless accusation for good measure earlier in the day.
As Allahpundit notes at HotAir, this is Moore’s emerging “best defense.” The principal himself and some of his most prominent backers are using it, and it’s a can of Conspiracy Lite compared to the unfounded rumor being spread by Alex Jones that “a reporter was taped while reportedly offering a woman $1,000 to accuse Senate candidate Roy Moore of sexual improprieties.” (The “reportedly” here is traced to a Twitter user. Jones’s site demurely adds that the person’s statement is “yet to be verified.”)
The problem with the “timing” argument—aside from the fact that it’s both speculative and non-falsifiable—is that it doesn’t hold up to any sort of scrutiny. Roy Moore said that it’s taken four decades for Corfman to state her case to the press on the record. There are three counterpoints:
First, Moore was not a figure of national consequence until the last few months, when it appeared he could win the Republican nomination for a Senate seat in Alabama. This is different than being a subject of national interest—Moore’s judicial antics have been media fodder for years, but state-level novelties with no obvious aspirations or prospects for national office do not receive a thorough vetting from the Washington Post or similar publications. A major-party nominee for Senate is more likely to. One who is a veritable shoo-in for a special election, when newspapers’ campaign coverage is not stretched countrywide, is more likely still. This is not to dismiss the quality of local coverage in Alabama; it is to recognize the outsize attention given to this race, and how a rush of journalistic resources could unearth news of this kind.
Related to this is the second counterpoint: Although the Post reported its story in recent days, accounts of Moore’s behavior have traveled by word of mouth for years. A deputy district attorney who worked with him told CNN “it was common knowledge that Roy dated high school girls, [and] everyone we knew thought it was weird.” The Intercept quoted one Alabama political consultant on the record who said the rumblings have existed for “a while,” and two others on background who claimed Moore’s vanquished primary foe, sitting Sen. Luther Strange, was aware of the charges broadly. The only new development is the specificity of the charges. And this specificity exists only because the Post’s investigative unit pursued the leads and recorded details from primary sources through the persistence of multiple interviews.
The third counterpoint: As more public figures have come forward to accuse powerful men of sexual misconduct, our culture has received an unpleasant education in the considerations victims must weigh before going public. Their careful thinking—which can manifest as reluctance over the course of 40 years—is justified by evidence. To wit: an Alabama state representative suggested Corfman may be guilty of some criminal offense for “lying and interfering with a political process.” D’Souza implied she was a liar. Jack Posobiec, one of the leading lights of professionalizing political filth, shared identifying information about Corfman to his 225,000 Twitter followers Friday, as the Daily Beast reported.
These responses demonstrate precisely why a woman in Corfman’s position might choose to remain silent for so long.
And, as the Post wrote, neither Corfman nor the three other women they interviewed approached the paper for the article. “While reporting a story in Alabama about supporters of Moore’s Senate campaign, a Post reporter heard that Moore allegedly had sought relationships with teenage girls,” the paper wrote. “Over the ensuing three weeks, two Post reporters contacted and interviewed the four women. All were initially reluctant to speak publicly but chose to do so after multiple interviews, saying they thought it was important for people to know about their interactions with Moore. The women say they don’t know one another.”
Moore has implied the allegations against him couldn’t be true because of their timing. But the timing makes sense, upon further review: The rumors about his behavior have circulated in Alabama for years, and they were investigated and fully reported only when he suddenly became a serious contender for the U.S. Senate. This is a natural process—and it has no bearing on whether or not Leigh Corfman’s story is credible.
This post originally appeared on Weekly Standard