Last week on this blog and in television interviews, I noted that in scandals like the one surrounding Roy Moore I often wait to see who sues for defamation first. What is clear in that someone is lying. It is either numerous women who were tracked down by the Washington Post or Roy Moore himself. Moore has called the women liars and “evil” while they have described a man with alleged pedophilic tendencies. As I mentioned on Friday, Moore’s responses are suspiciously labored and narrow for someone accused of deeply disturbing allegations. While I did not agree that Moore should simply withdrawal solely because someone made an accusation, the record is getting worse by the day. If he is innocent, I can understand a refusal to be chased from the race but there are new accounts that are making the situation untenable for Moore to remain in the race. Notably, Moore has been calling these women liars but he has not sued for defamation or announcing his intention to do so. That would put all parties under the bright light of discovery.
Update: Moore has announced that he will sue for defamation. However, he did not mention suing over the allegations of dating young girls but only “being with” a 15-year-old girl. He also mentioned only suing the Washington Post and not the various women who spoke on the record or his former colleague who spoke on the record. As noted below, the lawsuit against the Post would likely face the greatest challenge for Moore to prevail.
As I mentioned on Special Report, I was surprised by Moore’s interview with Sean Hannity where he not only denied the allegation but said that he did not date young girls as alleged. Here is the core of the exchange:
HANNITY: At that time in your life…Let me ask you this you do remember these girls would it be unusual for you as a 32 year old guy to have dated a woman as young as 17? That would be a 15 year difference or a girl 18. Do you remember dating girls that young at that time?
MOORE: Not generally, no. If did, you know, I’m not going to dispute anything but I don’t remember anything like that.
HANNITY: But you don’t specifically remember having any girlfriend that was in her late teens even at that time?
MOORE: I don’t remember that and I don’t remember ever dating any girl without the permission of her mother. And I think in her statement she said that her mother actually encouraged her to go out with me.
As with his statement that hitting on young girls was “out of my customary behavior,” the statement that “I’m not going to dispute anything but I don’t remember anything like that” is remarkably couched and qualified on such a disgraceful allegation. Most of us would not only have a clear memory but a strong denial to such an allegation.
Other aspects of the allegations can to the credibility of the allegations. First, even Breitbart confirmed that these women came forward reluctantly and were found out by the Washington Post. Second, others have come forward to contradict Moore but to say that he was notorious for dating young girls. A former colleague of Moore from the District Attorney’s office said that it was “common knowledge” that the Alabama Republican dated high school girls when he worked in the Etowah County District Attorney’s Office in the 1980s. Teresa Jones (who worked with Moore from 1982-1985) told CNN
“It was common knowledge that Roy Moore dated high school girls, everyone we knew thought it was weird. We wondered why someone his age would hang out at high school football games and the mall … but you really wouldn’t say anything to someone like that.”
Once again, I still believe that Moore is entitled to a presumption of innocence like all citizens but that does not shield him from the public record . . . or his public duties as a candidate for the U.S. Senate. If Moore did pursue young girls aged 14-16 as a man in his 30s, he is not only a disgusting human being but (given his denials and attacks on these women) a truly evil human being.
Moore could sue the Washington Post, though with multiple witnesses the newspaper would be able to show that it did not act with reckless disregard or knowing falsehood (the standard under the New York Times v. Sullivan for public figures). That would leave the women themselves.
So, again, that leaves us with the curiosity that no one, particularly Moore, have announced a lawsuit for defamation. For a man alleging a broad conspiracy of lying women, reporters and colleagues, he has remained conspicuously passive in the face of a growing scandal.