The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion If Moore could be banned from a mall, he can be kept out of the Senate

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) on Nov. 13 withdrew his endorsement of Roy Moore in the race for the Alabama Senate. (Video: Jordan Frasier/The Washington Post)

Speaking about GOP Senate nominee Roy Moore, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) told reporters: “If this choice is between Roy Moore and a Democrat, a Democrat. For sure.” Moore lost the support of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Tex.), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and a host of other elected Republicans. It is as if someone woke up Monday morning and told the whole lot: “This ‘If it’s true’ nonsense is dumb. Just say we oppose him.” Maybe it was Moore’s pathetic appearance on Sean Hannity or perhaps Republicans realized there would be an army of these women. Perhaps some donors called to say the wallets will close if Moore stays.

Then a fifth accuser came forward Monday. (“An Alabama woman alleges Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore sexually assaulted her when she was a teenager, her attorney Gloria Allred said Monday,” CNN reported. “Allred said her client, Beverly Young Nelson, would be willing to testify under oath and called on the Senate judiciary committee to hold a hearing and subpoena Moore. ‘Mr. Moore attacked me when I was a child,’ Nelson said, adding that she was 15 when he began flirting with her and 16 at the time of the alleged assault. ‘I want Mr. Moore to know that he no longer has any power over me.'”)

The New Yorker also released a bombshell — Moore was allegedly banned from the local mall because of his predilection for hitting on teenage girls. More than a dozen people told the New Yorker that “they had heard, over the years, that Moore had been banned from the mall because he repeatedly badgered teen-age girls. Some say that they heard this at the time, others in the years since. These people include five members of the local legal community, two cops who worked in the town, several people who hung out at the mall in the early eighties, and a number of former mall employees.” The report continued:

The stories that they say they’ve heard for years have been swirling online in the days since the Post published its report. “Sources tell me Moore was actually banned from the Gadsden Mall and the YMCA for his inappropriate behavior of soliciting sex from young girls,” the independent Alabama journalist Glynn Wilson wrote on his Web site on Sunday. (Wilson declined to divulge his sources.) Teresa Jones, a deputy district attorney for Etowah County in the early eighties, told CNN last week that “it was common knowledge that Roy dated high-school girls.” Jones told me that she couldn’t confirm the alleged mall banning, but said, “It’s a rumor I’ve heard for years.”

The sad reality is the recollection of crusty retired police officers who recall talk of a “ban” at the mall probably carries more weight with some voters than women accusers. (Notice how no one demands to know why the men didn’t come forward sooner.)

During a press conference Nov. 13, Beverly Young Nelson accused Senate candidate Roy Moore of sexually assaulting her in the 1970s when she was a teenager. (Video: Reuters)

Moore’s ability to screech “fake news” as a defense is weakening. A conspiracy so wide as to include The Post, the mall, the DA’s office and the YMCA might not even pass muster at Fox News.

Given the inability to take Moore’s name off the ballot at this late date, Sens. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) — who drew the short straw and is now head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee — and Todd Young (R-Ind.) both called for the Senate to expel Moore if he is elected.

We note four takeaways. First, public shaming still does work. Plainly, GOP leaders changed their minds about Moore’s viability over the past few days. Second, one would hope the GOP learns a lesson about turning away fringe characters who harbor hateful views and show disdain for the law. However, they still cling to President Trump, someone who in the long run can do much more damage to the GOP than Moore. Third, it’s not at all clear the GOP can finagle this to prevent Moore’s election (e.g., by a write-in, which the state GOP chairman opposes; inducing Luther Strange to leave early, triggering a new election; trying to move the election day, which is constitutionally suspect). Finally, as Republicans have figured out, Moore is poison the White House (thanks to Kellyanne Conway and Marc Short) still hasn’t broken with. Trump’s own history of alleged sexual abuse of women has now come back into view. (You wonder if McConnell and others believe Moore’s accusers why they didn’t believe women purportedly harassed by Trump.) You do wonder if Harvey Weinstein’s scandal broke a year ago whether that would have tipped the scales against Trump.

At any rate, if the GOP cannot come up with an election maneuver, the potential for an even greater Democratic wave in 2018 increases, unless the GOP really has the nerve to refuse to seat Moore and force yet another recall election. Alternatively, if Doug Jones wins, the potential for a Democratic majority in the Senate becomes a real possibility.