Even if we don’t know for certain whether Roy Moore had sexual contact (of a sort) with 14-year-old Leigh Corfman, we now know that Moore has made a conscious decision to lie about his onetime relationships with teenage girls.
We know this from a combination of his own words and of new evidence that would be accepted as probative in any American court of law. (More on the evidence, shortly.)
The odd thing is that Moore’s initial reaction was to tell at least a simulacrum of the truth, only later to change to a flat-out lie. Often, a liar works in the other direction, at first denying everything and then admitting little dribs and drabs as new evidence warrants. Who knows: Maybe this strange evolution from partial truth to full prevarication gives an indication that, somehow, Moore’s conscience is warring with itself.
Either way, his willingness to move to full-fledged dishonesty helps undermine his onetime semi-believable denials of the worst of the charges against him. One fib does not prove that his other statements are lies, of course, but it does establish that he is not entirely trustworthy.
Here is the obvious lie (the part before the “and”), repeated twice in recent days, from church pulpits: “Let me state once again: I do not know any of these women, did not date any of these women and have not engaged in any sexual misconduct with anyone.”
If he said it just once, it could be attributable to a mere lack of clarity: Maybe he meant he did not know the women he had not already admitted to knowing. But when he said it twice, and insisted he neither knew nor dated “any” of them, he was committing a bald-faced lie.
How do we know?
We know, first, because he himself told us so.
Here was Roy Moore talking to Fox’s Sean Hannity a few days after the disturbing allegations came out [emphases added]: “I do recognize however the names of two these young ladies, Debbie Wesson and Gloria Thacker, which they have a maiden, that’s their maiden name…. I seem to know or remember knowing [Wesson’s] parents…that they were friends. I can’t recall the specific dates because that’s been 40 years but I remember her as a good girl.”
HANNITY: But do you remember ever going on a date with her? She said that you asked around out on the first of several dates but nothing progressed beyond kissing.
MOORE: I don’t remember specific dates. I do not and I don’t remember if it was that time or later. But I do not remember that.
HANNITY: But you know hard but you never dated her ever? Is that what you’re saying?
MOORE: No but I don’t remember going out on dates. I knew her as a friend. If we did go on dates then we did. But I do not remember that.
HANNITY: What about Gloria Thacker Deason says she was an 18 year old cheerleader when you began taking her on dates that included bottles bottles rosé wine. She’s 18 at the time. The Alabama drinking age at the time is 19. Did that ever happen?
MOORE: No. Because in this county is a dry county. We would never would have had liquor. I would never… I believe this she said that she believed she was under age and as I recall she was 19 or older and that just never happened. I never provided alcohol, beer or intoxicating liquor to a minor. That’d be against the law and against anything I would have ever done. And I seem to remember her as a good girl or I seem to remember I had some sort of knowledge of her parents, her mother in particular.
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.
So Moore remembers them both as good girls, remembers the parents of both, recalls that one was 19 or older (she says she was 18), knew one of them “as a friend,” and can’t deny having actually dated them (but said there was no sexual activity).
Yet now, just weeks later, he insists he neither knew nor dated “any” of these women, not even the ones whose parents’ permission for dating he acknowledged requesting (and whose surviving parents confirm that he asked).
This isn’t splitting hairs. This is an unequivocal contradiction not only of the stories of multiple young women, but of his own earlier account.
And now one of those women, Debbie Wesson Gibson, has produced absolutely compelling evidence that she and Moore were indeed friendly. A scrapbook from her high school days, easily verifiable as dating from then and as having not been altered, contains references to her having gone on dates with Moore and features a note he wrote her congratulating her for graduating high school.
This personal scrapbook is far more compelling than the somewhat dubious, single-entry note allegedly written by Moore in another girl’s yearbook (although a hand-writing expert confirms what untrained eyes also see, which is that the bulk of the yearbook message is written in a hand remarkably similar to the writing featured in the note to Wesson/Gibson). A court of law would accept the scrapbook as evidence of some sort of friendly association between Moore and Wesson.
But now Moore says he not only never went on a date with her (she had described him fondly as playing the guitar and reading poetry for her), but never even knew her.
It would have been so easy to say what he started to say to Hannity: Yes, he did on some occasions date older teenage girls, with their parents’ knowledge, and he acted like a gentleman and never did anything inappropriate with them. He could distinguish those instances from the worse allegations against him, and trust the public to adjudge the stories and his believability for themselves.
Instead, he is falsely denying even the most innocent of all the “accusations” against him. He is lying after having had weeks to think about it. He is not miss-speaking out of the haze of memory newly jarred, but rather putting forth a falsehood with deliberate intent.
These new untruths are counterproductive. They hurt, not help, his case that he didn’t bring to his house, partially disrobe, and fondle then-14-year-old Leigh Corfman. By usual standards, remember, Corfman’s claims are at least credible. Her mother confirms their meeting of Moore at the courthouse. Court records confirm the mother and daughter were there at the time. The mother confirms that their home phone cord was long enough to stretch into Leigh’s room and that Leigh took private calls there. Public records (despite Moore’s team’s claims to the contrary) confirm they lived where they said they did.
And, to quote the original summation by the Washington Post, “Two of Corfman’s childhood friends say she told them at the time that she was seeing an older man, and one says Corfman identified the man as Moore. Wells says her daughter told her about the encounter more than a decade later, as Moore was becoming more prominent as a local judge.” One of those two friends actually recalled specific details of the second Moore encounter that Corfman told her, which match Corfman’s current account.
Meanwhile, other contemporaneous witnesses support several of the other (non-Corfman) stories, including one mother who quite explicitly says Moore asked permission to date her daughter when the daughter was just 16 (the mother refused).
Instead of asserting a sort of gray area among different types of interactions with teens of various ages, Roy Moore is now insisting against all evidence and common sense that all of it, every bit, is a false smear born of a grand conspiracy.
This column has gone to great lengths to credit some of Moore’s stories, to give him some benefit of the doubt, and to defend him from unfair charges; and in other forums I have defended him as well against some of the accusations against him of financial improprieties.
But if the man wants us to believe him, he darn well should stop telling lies.