Moore Holds Alabama Senate Campaign Event Despite Calls To Drop Out

Nov 15, 2017
Originally published on November 15, 2017 8:16 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore demonstrated last night that he is still running. He held a campaign event despite national Republicans who say more strongly than before that he should drop out. Moore denies statements by five women who all say that he pursued or touched or sexually assaulted them when they were in their teens and he was in his 30s. One was below the legal age of consent. NPR's Debbie Elliott caught up with Moore at a campaign stop last night. Hi, Debbie.

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: So what was the event like?

ELLIOTT: Well, this was a revival in small-town Jackson, Ala. It's in the southwest corner of the state. This was the...

INSKEEP: You mean like a religious revival meeting. That's what you're saying.

ELLIOTT: Right. All week long, they've been having these meetings. It's titled God Save America. It was at the Walker Springs Road Baptist Church - a pretty full house there. And in between the visiting preachers from Texas and Kentucky and some patriotic performances by the church youth choir, Moore took the pulpit. The congregation was very enthusiastic and greeted him warmly, standing up and clapping. You know, this was his comfort zone. This is his base. He was talking to evangelical Christians. And after this week that saw those new allegations of sexual assault that you outlined, Moore used this stop as a way to kind of get back on his message. You know, he only spoke about the allegations briefly in terms of this being a spiritual battle, that he's being persecuted for his conservative, Christian values.

INSKEEP: Well, let's listen to a bit of it.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ROY MOORE: Why do you think I'm being harassed by media and by people pushing forth allegations? And that's all the press want to talk about. But I want to talk about the issues. I want to talk about where this country's going, and if we don't come back to God, we're not going anywhere.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Right (unintelligible).

ELLIOTT: Now, that was vintage Roy Moore. He spent a lot of time quoting familiar Scripture. And at one point, he launched into the Gettysburg Address. He quoted a poem that he's written - just what he has been doing for years. Now, all the time that he's out campaigning, his campaign is also sending out these fundraising emails talking about what - how he's going to fight all of this. He says he refuses to, you know, succumb to the vicious thugs who are out to assault him, and he includes Mitch McConnell in that crowd. He says it's the same playbook they used in their failed attempt to keep Donald Trump out of the White House.

INSKEEP: Well, Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, has said, I believe the women. A number of other national Republicans have said quite strongly that they think that it's inappropriate for Moore to end up in the United States Senate. But I notice some awkwardness as well. I want to recount something to you that happened here in Washington with a U.S. representative from Alabama, Mo Brooks. An ABC News reporter chased him down a hallway - chased him down a stairwell in a House office building asking, do you believe Roy Moore or the women? And Brooks, rather than answering the question, says I believe the Democrats will do great damage to our country - essentially saying I don't care who Roy Moore is or what he's done. I just want a Democrat to lose.

ELLIOTT: And, you know, that's something that you hear from local party officials here. This is about, you know, keeping control of the Senate. People who are staunch conservative Republicans have a hard time thinking about voting for a Democrat. Now, while local party officials in Alabama seem to be standing by Moore and questioning why the allegations are coming now and what the motives are - it's just a month away from this December special election - that has not been the message from Alabama Senator Richard Shelby, also a Republican, or the man who once held this seat that Moore is running for years. Here's Attorney General Jeff Sessions during testimony in Congress yesterday.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JEFF SESSIONS: I am - have no reason to doubt these young women.

ELLIOTT: So now both the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the campaign outfit, have pulled out of a joint fundraising agreement with Moore's campaign. But the Alabama GOP remains. So that's where the next movement may or may not come. The state party steering committee is expected to meet soon - probably by the end of the week - to decide what, if any, action it will take.

INSKEEP: What are you hearing from Alabama voters?

ELLIOTT: Well, you know, for those in Moore's base, this is just strengthening their resolve. It's what he's known for - standing defiant, first for the Ten Commandments, then for fighting same-sex marriage - two issues he lost in federal court and, you know, ended up being, you know, removed from the bench when he was Alabama chief justice twice. But last night, here's a sentiment that was expressed by the Walker Springs Baptist Church pastor, David Webb.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DAVID WEBB: Reporters say allegations, accusations. I told them a while ago that's exactly what they are.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Come on.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: Amen.

WEBB: I like to look and see a man that for 20 years has stood for right.

ELLIOTT: Stood for right - so people feel like they need to continue to stay with him. So the question now for more moderate Republicans is, do you stay home December 12? Do you vote for Roy Moore despite these questions? Or do you cast a vote for Democrat Doug Jones?

INSKEEP: Debbie, in your reporting, have you come across a single Roy Moore supporter who said, you know, I was with him, but I just can't do it anymore?

ELLIOTT: I have not. The people who were with Moore from the get-go that I have spoken with are still with Roy Moore.

INSKEEP: Are there more moderate Republicans, if that's the word, who were not sure about him before and are definitely against him?

ELLIOTT: Yes.

INSKEEP: So that's - that is changing.

ELLIOTT: That is changing, but the question is, are there enough of them to elect the first Democrat to the Senate from Alabama in a quarter of a century?

INSKEEP: Debbie, always a pleasure talking with you. Thank you very much.

ELLIOTT: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Debbie Elliott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.