WTF is wrong with Roy Moore?

Roy Moore and I were in the same class at West Point where he had a reputation as a straight arrow. What happened?

By Lucian K. Truscott IV
Published November 16, 2017 12:00AM (UTC)
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Roy Moore (Getty/Scott Olson)

Roy Moore, who was a West Point classmate of mine, was elected twice as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, first in 2000, then again in 2012. He was removed from office by the Alabama Court of the Judiciary, first in 2003 for defying a court order to remove a stone monument displaying the Ten Commandments from his courthouse, and the second time in 2016 for defying a court order to implement same-sex marriage in the State of Alabama.

Before the voters of Alabama sent Roy Moore to the state capital twice; before Roy Moore took the position that the freedom of religion clause of the First Amendment applied only to Christians; before Roy Moore announced that Keith Ellison, who was elected to Congress from Minnesota, should be barred from taking office because he is a Muslim; before Roy Moore made numerous speeches promoting the conspiracy theory that President Obama was secretly a Muslim and was not born in the United States and was not qualified to be President; before Roy Moore rejected the theory of evolution, saying “we came from a snake? No I don’t believe that.”; before Roy Moore announced on national television that homosexual acts should be made “illegal”; before Roy Moore called for impeaching judges who issued rulings supporting homosexuals and same sex marriage; before Roy Moore announced that “transgender people don’t have rights”; before Roy Moore announced  that the attacks of 9-11 were “punishment from God”; before Roy Moore said that the shootings at Sandy Hook, which killed 20 children and eight adults, happened “because we’ve forgotten the law of God”; before Roy Moore told Time magazine that NFL players taking a knee during the National Anthem “is against the law, you know that? It was a act of Congress that every man stand and put their hand over their heart. That's the law."; before Roy Moore called pre-school “totalitarianism”; before Roy Moore argued in a column for that God is the “sovereign source of our law”; before Roy Moore gave a speech in Mississippi arguing that “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” came from the Christian God and that “Buddha didn't create us, Mohammed didn't create us, it was the God of the Holy Scriptures"; before Roy Moore began running for Senator from Alabama, he parked his car next to a dumpster behind the Olde Hickory House Restaurant in Gadsden, Alabama one night in 1977, and according to a statement by Beverly Young Nelson, who was a 16-year-old girl at the time, he sexually assaulted her by groping her breasts and grabbing her by the neck and attempting to force her head into his crotch.

With everything else Roy Moore has done and said in his life that argues against electing him to the United States Senate, what have we ended up talking about? Moore’s sexual transgressions against teenage girls that happened some 40 years ago. Indeed, with every passing day, we learn more and more about the citizens of the state of Alabama who have known exactly who Roy Moore is, and they haven’t done a thing about it. On Monday, The New Yorker and, an Alabama news website, both published deeply reported stories about Moore’s reputation in Gadsden, Alabama, (where he was an Assistant District Attorney) for pursuing teenage girls at high school football games, in restaurants, and on Friday and Saturday nights at a local mall where teens were known to hang out. In fact, The New Yorker reported that “Moore had been banned from the mall because he repeatedly badgered teen-age girls.” reported that “Roy Moore's penchant for flirting with teen girls was ‘common knowledge’ and ‘not a big secret’ around Gadsden.”

Moore was also accused in a Washington Post story last week of sexually assaulting Leigh Corfman. It was two years after the assault on Beverly Young Nelson when in 1979, he picked up 14-year-old Corfman in his car outside of her home and drove her to his house and took off his clothes, felt her breasts and tried to make her touch his penis. Moore was also accused by three other teenage girls, then 16, 17 and 18, of flirting with them repeatedly and pursuing them for “dates.” (The age of consent is 16 in Alabama. The drinking age at the time was 19.) Two of the girls reported that he picked them up at the same mall in Gadsden he had been banned from in the late 70s and early 80s. One of them, Gloria Thacker Deason, said that Moore picked her up after football games where she was a cheerleader and that on their “dates,” he gave her cocktails and Mateus Rose wine.  

Alabama hasn’t had much of a problem with Moore. He was running 11 points ahead in his race for the Senate the day before the story broke, and a poll over the weekend had 37 percent of evangelicals more likely to vote for Moore after hearing revelations of his sexual misconduct.

I didn’t know Roy Moore well when we were cadets. I was aware that he had a reputation at West Point as a stickler for the rules. Later, in the Army, as a Military Police company commander in Vietnam, his troops called him “Captain America” because he was so strict about rules of behavior and appearance. In a biography he wrote, Moore claimed that he slept on sand bags in Vietnam because he was afraid he would be “fragged” by one of his men rolling a grenade under his canvas cot. At West Point, we used to call guys like Moore straight arrows.

That was the Roy Moore we knew as cadets, the Roy Moore despised by his fellow MPs in Vietnam. But all the while, there was another Roy Moore, a man who espoused strict fundamentalist religious beliefs while concealing his appetite for teenage girls, including underage girls. According to the reports we have so far, he “dated” and sexually assaulted teenage girls over at least a three year period, from 1977 to 1979. The New Yorker reported that people who hung out at the Gadsden mall and mall employees remember him pursuing teenage girls there through “the early eighties,” so there is a chance that Moore’s pursuit of teenage girls went on for nearly a decade. (Moore got married in 1985.) Something tells me there are more tales about Roy Moore and teenage girls that will be coming out of Alabama.

Moore has mounted a peculiar defense since the charges first surfaced last week. Appearing on the Sean Hannity radio show, Moore admitted that after returning home from the military, “I dated a lot of young ladies.” Asked if it was his habit to date teenage girls, Moore paused before he answered, “not generally.” By Monday, Moore was claiming that he didn’t know either Leigh Corfman, the 14 year old he sexually assaulted, or Beverly Young Nelson, the 16 year old he attempted to rape.

Moore appeared before the press with his wife at his side and said, “I want to make it perfectly clear, the people of Alabama know me, they know my character, they know what I've stood for in the political world for over 40 years. And I can tell you without hesitation this is absolutely false. I never did what she said I did. I don't even know the woman. I don't know anything about her." His claims rang hollow, however, after Beverly Young Nelson produced her 1977 high school yearbook, which Moore had inscribed, “To a sweeter more beautiful girl I could not say Merry Christmas. Christmas 1977. Love, Roy Moore, DA.” Below the inscription, Moore wrote “Olde Hickory House.” Nelson said Moore had asked if he could write in her yearbook one day when he saw it on the counter of the restaurant where she was working a shift as a waitress. This week, Moore claimed that he never went to the Olde Hickory House restaurant and doubted it even existed.  Reporters found numerous ads for the restaurant in old issues of the local newspaper.  

By denying the claims of the women who have come forth, Moore is calling them liars. On Saturday at a campaign appearance, Moore called the claims being made by the women “fake news” and said the Democrats and the Republican establishment would “lie, cheat and steal” to keep him from being elected. This statement had a peculiar ring to me as a West Point graduate, because Moore used words taken straight from the Honor Code to attack his opponents and accuse them of lying. The West Point Honor Code states, “A cadet will not lie, cheat, or steal, or tolerate those who do.” As cadets, we were taught this was the bedrock upon which the Academy stood. Violating the Honor Code had only one punishment: expulsion.

Moore reached back over 50 years to call upon the words of the West Point Honor Code to defend himself against charges of sexual assault and attempted rape of teenage girls and to call his accusers liars. Even reading this as psychological projection doesn’t do justice to Moore’s desperate reversal of the Honor Code of West Point, using its words against the women he damaged as teenage girls.

Roy Moore and Harvey Weinstein, and the others who have been accused recently of sexual harassment and assault, are two sides of the same male coin. While Weinstein and others like Louis C.K. and Kevin Spacey have been supporters of liberal causes and women’s rights, Moore and political commentator Mark Halperin have supported Donald Trump and conservative causes of various stripes. What they did to women, however, has no political cast. Sexual harassment, sexual assault and attempted rape are crimes. When they are committed by men against others much younger and far less powerful than themselves, they are especially egregious.

Real courage has been shown by those who were assaulted, abused and harassed in coming forward. If my guess is correct, we’re going to hear more and more in days to come. Attorney Paula Cobia, who represents one of the women in Alabama who has accused Roy Moore, promised as much when she went on Don Lemon and said, “You will never have the benefit of our silence again.”

Moore has attacked the women accusing him for waiting 40 years before speaking out. The people attempting to defend Spacey and Louis C.K. have attacked their accusers for the same reason. (I couldn’t find any defenders of Harvey Weinstein.) When it comes to this stuff, it doesn’t matter how long it took for the truth to come out or whether your politics are red or blue. What counts is the yellow stripe running down the backs of bullies and sexual predators. Trust me, Roy: stealing the West Point Honor Code to defend yourself and crying persecution and quoting the Bible isn’t going to work. We know a coward when we see one.

Lucian K. Truscott IV

Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist and screenwriter. He has covered stories such as Watergate, the Stonewall riots and wars in Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels and several unsuccessful motion pictures. He has three children, lives on the East End of Long Island and spends his time Worrying About the State of Our Nation and madly scribbling in a so-far fruitless attempt to Make Things Better. He can be followed on Facebook at The Rabbit Hole and on Twitter @LucianKTruscott.

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