Moore accuser: I told people -- I just didn't go public

Why did Leigh Corfman wait so long to publicly accuse Roy Moore of molestation? The Alabama senatorial candidate and his allies have hit Corfman hard over this very point, noting that Moore has long been a public figure in Alabama, including runs for office prior to 2017. Why wait until now, when voters had already nominated Moore in the special election primary?

Savannah Guthrie challenges Corfman on this argument in an interview on NBC’s Today this morning. Does this prove that Corfman’s allegations are just a politically motivated hit job? Corfman tells Guthrie that she has been telling this story since it happened — to her friends at the time, to her family, and finally to her children. If the Washington Post hadn’t asked — and if they hadn’t found any other victims — she still wouldn’t have gone public, Corfman insists:

Leigh Corfman, the woman who accused Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore of initiating a sexual encounter when she was 14 — and he was a 32-year-old assistant district attorney — said she feels “a weight has been lifted” since going public with her story, even though it has cost her personally and financially.

In an exclusive television interview, her first since The Washington Post revealed her story earlier this month, Corfman addressed critics who have questioned why she failed to raise her allegations earlier, telling TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie, “It’s very simple, really — I did tell people,” including her friends and family and, later when she was an adult herself, her children.

So why didn’t she come forward publicly? Corfman says she thought about it, but wasn’t sure how it would impact her family. At one point she left the decision to her children, who vetoed it at the time. Corfman had decided to leave it alone until the Washington Post called on her:

Corfman said she eventually told her family and family friends. She also thought about confronting Moore for years as he climbed the state judicial ranks, but feared the repercussions against her and her family.

“I wanted to walk into his office and say, ‘Hey, remember me? You need to knock this stuff off. I need to go public.’ My children were small so I didn’t do it,” she said.

When the Washington Post caught wind of her story and sought her out, she told the paper’s reporters that “if they found additional people, that I would tell my story. And they found those people,” she said.

The interview is a good news/bad news situation for the Moore campaign, the Post’s Callum Borchers concludes. It’s bad news because the soft-spoken Corfman comes across as a credible witness in this interview. It’s good news, though, because Guthrie’s challenge to Corfman about the “decades” between the alleged molestation and her public accusation shows that the Moore campaign’s efforts to undermine her credibility appears to be having an effect:

Yet her interview with NBC’s Savannah Guthrie also included questions about her personal politics, whether she was paid to come forward and why she remained silent for decades — questions that Moore’s defenders have raised to cast doubt on her claim. That the same questions came up on the “Today” show is a win for Moore.

Guthrie had little choice but to ask; ignoring the pushback from Moore’s camp would have been a glaring omission. But the flip side of Corfman’s firsthand retelling of her alleged abuse is that her TV appearance provided new material for those determined to discredit her, who can now say their questions were treated as legitimate by NBC.

Guthrie’s questions don’t really carry that much cachet; they’re standard journalistic questions in a story that begins and ends with personal credibility. Those questions are always legitimate, even if sometimes they don’t get asked. Corfman’s answers — especially her emphatic response to the allegation that she’s been paid to attack Moore — sound both poised and credible. It’s possible that she’s not telling the truth, but the more Corfman speaks out, she seems less and less like an activist and more like someone caught up in a situation that she didn’t seek out. If Alabama voters see that side of Corfman, it’s all bad news for Moore, and for the GOP, at least in this special election.

Here’s the entire interview, which Guthrie concludes by showing a picture of Corfman at 14 and asking her what it brings to mind. Much promise, Corfman replies, and someone who didn’t deserve to be exploited by a 32-year-old public official. If the Moore campaign takes anything positive out of that, it should be only that NBC didn’t do two segments with Corfman.