“The minute I saw Gloria Allred come on, I knew it was all a bunch of horse hockey.” –Louis in Huntsville
In these godforsaken Years of Our Lord 2016 and ’17 there’ve been ways to misread just about everything: election polls, cultural trends, CBO reports, Margaret Atwood, covfeve. I worried time was the latest such object. It was 6:50 a.m., but that was Central Standard, and it was possible that Dale Jackson’s program started at 7:00 a.m. Eastern. I’d texted him twice in the last 12 minutes to let me inside from the parking lot and there had been no response. So I called. To my relief, he answered, first the phone and then the door.
“You can hang out here or with me in my office,” he said. “Here” was a carpeted basement one ping-pong table and a cathode ray TV from being a neighbor’s game room from my childhood. His office was upstairs in the building he believed was once a bank and now is an outpost of the radio broadcasting giant Cumulus Media.
Jackson needed to complete his show prep in a hurry; I was his guest co-host this morning, there to solicit calls from a specific subset of Alabama voters who could help Republican Roy Moore avoid an upset in his Senate bid against Democrat Doug Jones. Jones featured people claiming to be Alabama Republicans displeased with Moore in a campaign commercial released last month. I was interested in hearing from people who met those criteria—but who nevertheless wanted to get to yes (to borrow a term from congressional parlance) on voting for Moore next Tuesday. Jackson, economically to the right but not among Moore’s socially conservative herd, is part of that subset himself.
I elected against the game room and followed the bald, bearded 38-year-old Jackson to his office on the second floor. As he typed a rundown for the show we chatted intermittently, the subject eventually winding its way to Beverly Young Nelson, the woman represented by Gloria Allred who says she was sexually assaulted by Moore when she was 16 and provided as contextual evidence a contemporary yearbook snippet that appeared to be signed by Moore. Moore’s legal team has declared the writing inauthentic and demanded Allred release it to a neutral party for examination. That hasn’t happened. Jackson says it should.
I asked him if his perspective on Moore would be different if Allred hadn’t become involved. “I think so,” he said, turning from his computer, without missing a beat.
If the scoreboard keeps track of settlement money, Allred has dominated the rich and famous for decades, and often has opposed cads Republicans don’t like—Anthony Weiner, for example. But in that time, Allred’s PR pizzazz has grated on Americans disgusted with celebrity culture. Two of her recent clients have taken on Herman Cain and Donald Trump, the latter client a former Apprentice contestant whose litigation is still ongoing. But she has no involvement with Leigh Corfman: the 53-year-old woman who told the Washington Post that Moore molested her when she was 14 and is rarely mentioned by name among Moore’s supporters.
From there Jackson and I returned downstairs and banked left to his studio. Inside there were his aides Antonio, working the boards and wearing an Oklahoma University polo, and “LT,” his college-student assistant wearing a gray t-shirt with the logo of a famous Australian rock band. “Accept Corfman/Disbelieve Corfman,” it could’ve read, in this the year of misreading things.
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“The only thing that they said that was illegal that he supposedly did was the sexual assault allegations . . . If you really have evidence of a crime, come forward, let it be evaluated by forensic experts, we’ll weigh that. But I don’t know how stupid the mainstream media thinks the people of Alabama are. The simple fact of the matter is I don’t think anybody that I know that’s conservative is swayed one iota by them coming up with something the month before an election. It’s called an October surprise in presidential elections. It’s a November surprise for us. This is the same stuff, just a different election and different names.” —Aaron in Madison
After our first segment of the program, Dale asks if I’m surprised by the callers: people who voted for GOP Representative Mo Brooks in the primary and say they will vote for Moore now. I’m not. Seventy-one percent of likely Republican voters in the state say they don’t believe allegations against Moore of “sexual misconduct with teenagers while a grown man.” That specific wording from the pollster YouGov and how voters interpret it are key. Caller after caller to Jackson’s show dismiss such supposed “misconduct”—by which they mean the accusations from Nelson and Corfman, who were at 16 and 14 at the time and have detailed acts that resemble crimes.
“I think that all of these allegations are just . . . ridiculous,” says Heather in Rogersville. “That they’re going to come out at this point, and with no evidence. And yet the people of Alabama are being talked about in the mainstream media as if we’re just idiots that we would put in [office] a child molester. And yet, like I said, we’re just expected to take these allegations with no evidence at all, whatsoever.”
I pushed Heather a bit: Both Nelson and Corfman provided specific accounts of their interactions with Moore, on the record. Did this change her perspective about the two women?
“Not really, just because of some of the background I’ve read on both of them, specifically Corfman,” she responded. “I just don’t find it believable. I feel like if this is true, why wait this long to come out? And why did it come out the way that it came out, with the Washington Post?” (I’ve written about the “why did they wait this long” defense here.)
The only additional “background” that has called into question the veracity of Corfman’s account is from Breitbart News, which has been peddled by Moore’s campaign, and is thoroughly irrelevant (as you can read here) or ironically substantiates the Post’s reporting (as you can read here). This isn’t to say that Corfman’s story is unimpeachable. But as an objective matter, the attempts thus far to invalidate her have been themselves without either merit or proof.
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“I read the article before I read where it was from in the first place. And just going through the words of the article, it might just be because the author for the Washington Post wrote it with a biased tone the whole way through. If it came from a neutral paper, probably would’ve had a little more weight.” —Derek from Huntsville
The Post’s November 9 article relating the stories of Corfman and three other women sparked the conflagration of this campaign. To Alabama Republicans, it seems to have mattered quite a lot that it was the Post that broke the news.
For an embodiment of this view, take this exchange between CNN’s Jake Tapper and former Alabama Republican party chairman Marty Connors last month:
CONNORS: I think the truth is you just gotta watch the timing on this. Roy has been scrubbed up and down, up and down. And the Washington Post, I’m just not sure the most credible source for news in the state of Alabama.
TAPPER: I don’t know why you would say that. It’s one of the best newspapers in the country.
CONNORS: Why would I say that? Why would I say that, okay.”
Connors appeared genuinely befuddled as to why Tapper would say, without qualification, that the Post is credible.
And he isn’t alone. I asked a caller named Derek what it was that gave him the sense there was bias in the Post’s reporting—if there was a particular phrase or passage, or something more general.
“You know how you can tell when someone’s got an attitude through a text message? That’s kind of what I got in the article,” he responded. “It just had sass all the way through it. It didn’t feel informational, it felt attacking.”
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“I believe there is some truth to some of them, but I also believe that it was a different time than now. My grandparents are 17 years apart. I don’t feel like that’s the same thing today as it was 30 years ago.” —John in Athens
Once the callers got beyond Nelson and Corfman—beyond their evaluations of the reliability of the women’s claims or the media—they’d allow that Moore is a dolt. Which isn’t reason enough to dissuade them from backing him.
“[The allegations] have been blown up out of proportion,” explained Wade in Huntsville. “I do think the gentleman was probably socially inept in his younger years. I think he was probably one of these geeky guys that really didn’t know how to properly associate with the opposite sex. That’s kind of obvious. But that’s so old, that was so long ago, when you look at how many national figures have stepped in that little mud puddle, it pales in comparison to a vote to assist Chuck Schumer in his agenda. I’m sorry.”
I’m sorry. The words implied a “duh.” It was the same perspective shared by Tom Fredricks, a Republican candidate for state representative who drove buses for both Mo Brooks and Trump.
“I think people are getting sidetracked. They’re letting themselves be led down the wrong path here,” he says with respect to the allegations. “At this point I think it’s vital that we simply look at the task at hand, at the Senate seat, at the kind of votes that are going to be produced if Roy Moore does not obtain that seat. And, quite frankly, what Roy Moore did or didn’t do 38 years ago takes a back seat to what he will do when he enters the U.S. Senate. . . . It’s just that simple.”
There’s a near-even split in the YouGov poll between likely Moore voters: those who back him because they like him, and those who don’t like Doug Jones.
Said Wade in Huntsville: “This thing has boiled down to one big issue to me. And it is, I just cannot in good conscience give Chuck Schumer one more vote. I cannot do it. I don’t like Roy Moore. I don’t like hardly anything about him. But I don’t like the way that Mr. Jones is going to vote.
This post originally appeared on Weekly Standard