A new poll finds nearly 40 percent of Alabama evangelicals say they are more likely to vote for GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore after sexual misconduct allegations were made against him last week.
The Washington Post reported on Thursday that a 53-year-old woman accused Moore of initiating sexual contact with her when she was 14 and he was 32. Moore has since denied the allegations, saying they are “completely false” and suggesting they are part of a smear campaign by the Democratic party.
Thirty-seven percent of the evangelicals surveyed by JMC analytics said the allegations against Moore make them more likely to vote for him in the upcoming election to fill Jeff Sessions’ vacant Senate seat.
Twenty-eight percent of respondents say the allegations made them less likely to vote for Moore and 34 percent said the allegations made no difference in their decision.
The poll, conducted from Nov. 9 to 11 with 575 responses, found that 29 percent of respondent said the allegations against Moore would make them more likely to vote for him, compared to 38 percent overall who say the allegations would make them less likely to support Moore.
Alabama Republican officials have rushed to defend Moore against the bombshell allegations.
Alabama state Rep. Ed Henry argued that Moore’s victims should be prosecuted for waiting so many years to come forward.
“If they believe this man is predatory, they are guilty of allowing him to exist for 40 years,” he said. “I think someone should prosecute and go after them. You can’t be a victim 40 years later, in my opinion.”
Madison County GOP Chairman Sam Givhan, added: “I’m obviously suspicious. After all, some of these allegations are 40 years old.”
In response to the attacks on Moore’s accusers, Jesuit priest James Martin reminded Moore and other GOP officials that it took years and even decades for many of the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse victims to come forward.
“As the abuse crisis in the church showed, it can take years for victims of sexual abuse to come forward,” he writes. “Whether out of fear, shame or being told to be quiet, it can take victims years to find their voices. Other reports also prompt more speaking out. So it’s not ‘unbelievable.'”
Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler, who has endorsed Moore, invoked Jesus to defend Moore: “Take the Bible. Zachariah and Elizabeth, for instance. Zachariah was extremely old to marry Elizabeth and they became the parents of John the Baptist,” Zeigler said, choosing his words carefully before invoking Christ. “Also take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus.”
A former colleague of Moore’s told CNN on Saturday that it was “common knowledge” that the former Assistant District Attorney for Etowah County, Ala. from 1977 until 1982, dated high school girls in the 1980s.
Teresa Jones, who served as Deputy District Attorney for Etowah County, from 1982 until 1985, confirmed to CNN that multiple people thought it was unusual that Moore dated high school girls, but that no one ever stepped forward to raise the matter with him.
“It was common knowledge that Roy Moore dated high school girls, everyone we knew thought it was weird,” Jones told CNN. “We wondered why someone his age would hang out at high school football games and the mall … but you really wouldn’t say anything to someone like that.”