Alabama Reacts To Sexual Misconduct Allegations Against Roy Moore
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Roy Moore says he is still running for the U.S. Senate in a special election next month. The Washington Post reported that the Alabama Republican initiated a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old girl when he was 32 and when he was an assistant district attorney. But Moore remains defiant, telling Sean Hannity's radio show this.
(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO SHOW, "THE SEAN HANNITY SHOW")
ROY MOORE: The allegation of sexual misconduct with her are completely false. I believe they're politically motivated. I believe they're brought only to stop a very successful campaign, and that's what they're doing.
SIEGEL: Everyone from President Trump to rank-and-file senators in Washington have called on Moore to withdraw from the race if the allegations are true. But Moore's support is still strong in Alabama. Here's Andrew Yeager of member station WBHM in Birmingham.
ANDREW YEAGER, BYLINE: While the state's Republican governor, Kay Ivey, called the report deeply disturbing, she says she will reserve judgment until the facts are known. But many Republican leaders in Alabama are with Moore.
DICK BREWBAKER: I mean, how do you react to an allegation that supposedly happened 38 years ago?
YEAGER: State Senator Dick Brewbaker says he doesn't dismiss the report outright, but he's skeptical.
BREWBAKER: I do not buy the idea that suddenly because it's now the U.S. Senate, she felt like she had to come forward. I mean, come on. He's run for governor, and he's been elected to the highest court in the land twice.
YEAGER: Limestone County Republican Party Chairman Noah Wahl is skeptical of The Post story, too. And he says Republicans in Alabama look at the situation differently.
NOAH WAHL: I think that that's because a lot of people in Washington - the so-called establishment people in Washington do not want Judge Moore up there. So they would use this opportunity to try to prevent him from getting up to Washington.
YEAGER: James Bennett, who's the chair of the Calhoun County Republican Party, believes the story might actually help Roy Moore. He says since the report broke, his phone has been ringing constantly from Moore's supporters wanting bumper stickers and signs.
JAMES BENNETT: This has made a lot of Roy Moore supporters mad. It's made the Republicans mad. And I think we're going to see increased voter turnout due to this.
YEAGER: Moore is a polarizing figure here. He was twice removed as Alabama's chief justice for ignoring federal court orders. And out in the suburbs of Birmingham, many voters were reluctant to even talk about him.
At this playground in Homewood, Mieke McBride calls the story shocking. She was most troubled by how state auditor Jim Zeigler suggested the allegations aren't a big deal. He told one outlet that Jesus's parents were Joseph, an adult carpenter, and Mary, a teenager, and that nothing illegal or immoral happened between Moore and the girl.
MIEKE MCBRIDE: As a Christian, I was really disturbed with how they're using some of the Bible to really justify what happened when I feel like the really only appropriate response was to say either we don't believe this is true or to say 32-year-old men have no business with 14-year-olds.
YEAGER: Political consultant David Mowery has worked with both parties. He says the story may not be a fatal blow to Moore because Alabama is such a solidly Republican state. But the race could shift if any high-profile Republicans endorse Moore's opponent, Democrat Doug Jones.
DAVID MOWERY: It's signaling to other Republicans that, hey, it's OK to vote for this guy this one time because, you know, Moore is so flawed as a candidate or a person.
YEAGER: The special election is just one month away. For NPR News, I'm Andrew Yeager in Birmingham. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.