Some Factual Problems with the Federalist's Latest Defense of Roy Moore

We have yet another person explaining why we should vote for a guy credibly accused of child molestation. The piece is by Tully Borland at the Federalist and makes what the author claims is a Very Bold and Even Shocking Claim: “I am going to argue for the very unpopular, even shocking, view that, even if Roy Moore did what he is accused of doing, Alabamans are within their rights to vote for him, and they shouldn’t let Democrats and Never Trumpers shame them into not voting.”


I started out to write a post that addresses this argument head-on — including its “dating 14-year-olds is cool or at least once was” provocation. Then I realized I have already written the response, more than once (see here, here and here). Borland’s “hot take” spin has already been written. The genre has become boring to me, and is so self-evidently provocative in a “look at me!” fashion that part of me regrets giving it any attention at all.

More than that, I became irritated with the lazy and factually challenged arguments used to justify skepticism of the accusers. Because even though Borland’s “hot take” ostensibly accepts that the claims are true, he first spins and minimizes and distorts the facts, repeating things that have become Conventional Wisdom among Moore defenders. So I have decided to focus on these claims instead.

Here are Borland’s proffered reasons to dispute the two most troubling claims against Moore:

We know that two women have accused him of having inappropriate sexual contact or coercion. The most recent allegation appears to have involved more coercion than the first. Whether it would rise to attempted rape in court no one knows, because the details are too sketchy. Forty years is a long time to remember a lot of details.

Both claims have been called into doubt. The yearbook Moore allegedly signed appears to have been doctored, and his accuser falsely claimed never to have seen Moore since even though he was the judge for her divorce. Given recently discovered court records, there is also reason to doubt Leigh Corfman’s story.


Let’s start with the claim about Beverly Nelson and her divorce. The accusation that Nelson “falsely claimed never to have seen Moore since even though he was the judge for her divorce” gets some facts wrong. A local news station reviewed the court records and concluded that Moore was not the judge for her divorce and likely never saw her in court:

[A] careful review of court records and a conversation with Nelson’s lawyer in that divorce case confirm Nelson never had reason to appear before Moore.

A document with Moore’s signature was produced during the news conference. It shows Moore’s signature on an order dismissing the divorce case, but even Moore’s attorney says the signature was stamped by an aide.

As for the divorce, another judge’s signature appears on every other record of the case except for the dismissal.

In June, her attorney, Rodney Ward, filed notice with the court that a planned hearing in the case should be continued since Mrs. Harris and her husband were seeking counseling. The continuance was granted by Judge W.D. Russell.

The case only lasted from May to July, when Moore approved the dismissal through a motion. Nelson reconciled with her then-husband, so they filed for that dismissal without appearing in court, according to her attorney at the time and the court record. When we spoke to that attorney today, he said he didn’t have an independent memory of the case, which was nearly 20 years ago. However, h[e] reviewed his files in the case, which show no record of any hearing. … The couple would divorce later, but before another judge.


So it’s inaccurate to say Moore “was the judge for her divorce,” since 1) another judge handled all in-court proceedings, 2) this was not “her divorce” but an initial proceeding that was dismissed, and 3) Moore’s clerk merely rubber-stamped a dismissal for which there was evidently no court hearing.

As to the claim that the yearbook was “doctored”: there is handwriting under Moore’s signature denoting the place and time of the signature, which appears (to me, at least) to be different handwriting. Whether that means it has been “doctored” is a matter of interpretation, and depends largely on whether Nelson has actively claimed that all the handwriting was Moore’s, including the inscription about the location and date. (I don’t think she has, but I am open to correction by someone armed with proof.)

Then we have the claim: “Given recently discovered court records, there is also reason to doubt Leigh Corfman’s story.” This language suggests that the new court records directly cast doubt on Corfman. But if you follow the link, Paul Mirengoff pretty much acknowledges that everything Corfman says could be consistent with the court records. Mirengoff concentrates mainly on a statement from a judge that Corfman had “certain disciplinary and behavioral problems.” Mirengoff concludes that “[i]f Corfman was significantly troubled in February and March of 1979” she might be “inventing or embellishing.” Then again, a troubled 14-year-old might be exactly the sort of person Moore would choose to prey upon. Mirengoff also questions whether the events described by Corfman could have occurred in a 12-day period that the court records suggest Corfman was with her mom, and acknowledges it could have happened. Mirengoff finally complains that “Corfman told the Post that her life spiraled downward after her alleged encounters with Moore” but says: “We now know that she had serious issues before then.” But he also acknowledges that she could be telling the truth. He says there is evidence that Corfman’s mom, trying to regain custody of Corfman, claimed that the disciplinary problems had gotten better. But Corfman’s description of a life spiraling downward wasn’t about whether she was a rebellious teenager, but the way that this sexual episode from a much older man so early in life affected the entirely of her adult life — something that many molestation victims can attest to.


Ultimately, the “court records” argument amounts to very little.

But while is truly astonishing about Borland’s piece is this:

But let’s suppose the accusations are mostly true. Then from a conservative moral perspective, Moore is guilty of lying, trying to have pre-marital sexual relations with girls half his age, and pressuring them to do so without first determining that they reciprocate. There is no sugar-coating what he did. Moore was a dirt bag and is currently lying about his actions rather than confessing the truth and asking for forgiveness.

The fella says “there is no sugar coating what he did” right after sugarcoating what Moore allegedly did. Was Moore’s true failure really just “pressuring” the girls “without first determining that they reciprocate”? Um, no. Here’s what Beverly Nelson actually alleged:

[I]nstead of driving to the street he stopped the car and parked his car in between the dumpster and the back of the restaurant where there were no lights. The area was dark and deserted. I was alarmed and I immediately asked him what he was doing.

Instead of answering my question, Mr. Moore reached over and began groping me, putting his hands on my breasts. I tried to open my car door to leave, but he reached over and locked it so I could not get out. I tried fighting him off, while yelling at him to stop, but instead of stopping he began squeezing my neck attempting to force my head onto his crotch. I continued to struggle. I was determined that I was not allow him to force me to have sex with him. I was terrified. He was also trying to pull my shirt off. I thought that he was going to rape me. I was twisting and struggling and begging him to stop. I had tears running down my face.

At some point he gave up. He then looked at me and said, “you are a child. I am the District attorney of Etiwah County. If you tell anyone about this, no one will believe you.” He finally allowed me to open the car door and I either fell out or he pushed me out. I was on the ground as he pulled out of the parking area behind the restaurant. The passenger door was still open as he burned rubber pulling away leaving me lying there on the cold concrete in the dark.


This is what Tully Borland describes as “pressuring [Nelson] to [have sexual relations] without first determining that [she] reciprocate[d].” That goes beyond sugarcoating and amounts to a lie. What Nelson has described is an attempted rape or very close to it. It is a teenager screaming and fighting and crying while a man in his thirties gropes her and forcefully tries to make her perform a sex act. This is not a mere matter of failing to ascertain whether consent is there. This is knowing that consent most assuredly is not there — that the victim is resisting quite openly — and proceeding anyway.

And pretending otherwise is sugarcoating it.

Is voting for a guy who did this stuff justified? I have previously made the case against it in the links above.

But at the very least, let’s not repeat bogus defenses and minimize what Moore is alleged to have done.



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