No one thought he’d arrive at any other conclusion, did they? The first rule of populist talk radio is don’t cross your audience. Where they go, you follow, and there’s no reason to think they’re abandoning Moore. The prospect of Hannity urging him to quit was farcical from the start for exactly that reason. On the other hand, he can’t go all-in for Moore because no one knows how bad things might get. New accusers keep coming forward and Trump has stayed deafeningly silent about what he thinks Moore should do. Hannity’s audience tends to follow Trump — but not always, as we saw in the Moore/Strange runoff, which leaves Hannity uncertain of which way to move. If he backs Moore to the hilt and Trump cuts him loose, triggering a populist exodus from Moore, then he’s potentially on the wrong side of his audience. If he tells Moore to quit and Trump sticks with him, leading populists to stick with Moore too, then he’s potentially on the wrong side of his audience. The only safe play is to do exactly what he did here. Acknowledge that the accusations are disturbing but also claim that he’s satisfied with the silly “open letter” to Hannity that Moore published yesterday and that he trusts the judgment of Alabama’s voters. Trump will probably do the same thing, for the very same reason. If you’re not going to lead and you’re unsure of how to follow because you don’t know which way your base is going, you hedge.
Two new accusers were revealed last night in the Washington Post right around the time “Hannity” was beginning to air. Here’s something for the history books:
[Then-high-school-senior Gena] Richardson says Moore — now a candidate for U.S. Senate — asked her where she went to school, and then for her phone number, which she says she declined to give, telling him that her father, a Southern Baptist preacher, would never approve.
A few days later, she says, she was in trigonometry class at Gadsden High when she was summoned to the principal’s office over the intercom in her classroom. She had a phone call.
“I said ‘Hello?’” Richardson recalls. “And the male on the other line said, ‘Gena, this is Roy Moore.’ I was like, ‘What?!’ He said, ‘What are you doing?’ I said, ‘I’m in trig class.’”
What thirtysomething man hasn’t had a woman play hard to get with the ol’ “I’m in trig class” excuse? That scene plays like dark comedy but the next part of Richardson’s story doesn’t. She says she reluctantly agreed to let Moore take her to a movie and got in his car afterward so that he could drive her to her own car across the long mall parking lot. As she was saying goodnight, Moore allegedly “grabbed” her and kissed her:
“It was a man kiss — like really deep tongue. Like very forceful tongue. It was a surprise. I’d never been kissed like that,” she says. “And the minute that happened, I got scared then. I really did. Something came over me that scared me. And so I said, ‘I’ve got to go, because my curfew is now.’”
Beverly Young Nelson told a similar story of Moore finally making a move on her after he’d offered to drive her home, when she was inside his car with no one around and no easy means of escape. Nelson, though, claims she was assaulted; Richardson doesn’t go that far but clearly got a bad vibe from the encounter. She says she told a co-worker at Sears what happened at the time and the co-worker, who also spoke to the Post, corroborated it, claiming that she would warn Richardson to hide in the back of the store after that incident whenever Moore came by looking for her. Other women at the mall also claimed that Moore came around frequently looking to chat up teen girls; one says he asked her out when she was 16 in the presence of her mother, and her mother forbade it. (The woman’s mother also corroborated that for WaPo.) One woman — a Democrat — who worked at the mall when she was 18 says, “I can remember him walking in and the whole mood would change with us girls… It would be like we were on guard. I would find something else to do. I remember being creeped out.” Yet another woman, who was 22 at the time, says she remembers Moore “lingering” in her section of the department store and by the store’s bathroom and was once so unnerved by it that she complained to her supervisor, who allegedly told her he’d had complaints about Moore before. All of the women quoted in the piece are named. No anonymous sources.
If you haven’t read the “open letter” that Moore sent to Hannity, here it is. Having to punt on what Moore should do required Hannity to say that he got the “answers” he asked for 24 hours earlier when he called for Moore to disprove the accusations against him, but the letter doesn’t really answer anything. It starts with some biography and reminds the reader that Moore has been through various political campaigns and was never accused of sexual misconduct before, which is fair enough but says nothing about the current allegations. Then he notes that Nelson claims she hasn’t had contact with him since he allegedly assaulted her when in fact he presided over her divorce proceeding in 1999. A look at the divorce records, though, shows that he’s being disingenuous: Nelson withdrew her divorce petition before there was any hearing in front of Moore. All Moore did was sign an order dismissing the case. That required no contact with Nelson herself.
Finally, Moore points out (as his lawyer did yesterday) that the inscription in Nelson’s yearbook appears to have been “tampered” with, specifically the stuff written after his signature about the date and location. At no point, as far as I know, have he and his lawyers flatly claimed that the inscription was forged or that the signature isn’t his. The suggestion seems to be that someone else added the material after the signature, not that Moore never signed it. If he did, that would prove that he knew Nelson, so how does the alleged “tampering” disprove her claim? And what about the now seven other accusers who claim that Moore took an interest in them when they were teenagers, including then-14-year-old Leigh Corfman? Nelson’s accusation is the most damaging because it alleges assault but what landed Moore in hot water with Republicans initially was the possibility that he was “dating” teenagers as a thirtysomething man, not that he might have assaulted one of them. The open letter doesn’t deal with the particulars of any of those claims, it simply denies them. So how does it provide any “answers” that we didn’t have before?