Part 3—One accuser, or four? On Friday morning, November 10, Leigh Corfman became first accuser in.
In that day's hard-copy Washington Post, a front-page report described Corfman's accusation against Roy Moore. Back in 1979, Moore molested her, Corfman said, when she was 14 years old.
The Post's report had appeared on-line on Thursday, November 9.
We know of no reason to doubt Corfman's accusation. That said, should her claim have been believed right away, or should wiser heads perhaps have waited a day or three to see what else might occur?
We would have voted for the wisdom of delay. In part, we recalled Kathleen Willey, whose accusation against Bill Clinton had produced a stampede of heartfelt belief in March 1998.
In the ensuing months and years, other events brought Willey's credibility into rather obvious question. Too late! The lovesick boys of the mainstream "press" had long since professed true belief.
Why else would have voted for the wisdom of delay? We also remembered the accuser in the Duke lacrosse case. Beyond that, we recalled the stampede of belief in Jackie, the accuser at UVa.
We recalled the disaster of the McMartin and other preschool cases. We recalled the way accusers were rashly believed back in Salem Village.
As a general matter, it seems to us that it makes sense to wait at least a couple of days before professing belief in serious claims against people, even against people you'd like to defeat in elections you don't otherwise know how to win. But back on November 10, Corfman's accusation was received in the traditional way:
In many pseudoliberal warrens, her accusation set off a stampede of heartfelt belief. This stampede included silly name-calling directed at those who suggested delay.
Let us say it again! We know of no reason to doubt Corfman's statements. Assuming her statements are acurate, we're glad she decided to push back this week against Moore's persistent denials.
Three days later, on November 13, Beverly Nelson Young became second accuser in. She accused Moore of a violent sexual assault, an assault she said he committed when she was just 16 years old. By normal standards of reasoning, this second claim served as "supporting evidence" in support of the first accusation—although, of course, a second claim can't typically serve as proof of the first.
We know of no reason to doubt Corfman's claim. That said, some accusers do come forward with claims which are utterly false. With that in mind, it seemed to us that it made good sense—indeed, that it still makes good sense—to acknowledge the difficulty of assessing such claims.
The part of our brains which wants to stampede despises such nuance and niceties. This brings us to a peculiar part of that initial Post report, the report which appeared on November 10.
That Post report didn't present a stand-alone claim by Corfman. To many stampeding eyes, the report included four accusers, not just one.
In effect, many stampeders believed the Post had presented three supporting witnesses. Because it's all anthropology now, it's worth exploring that perception, which launched a thousand claims.
Clearly, that initial Post report included at least one main accuser. From its headline on down, the report centered on Corfman's accusation—an accusation we know of no reason to doubt.
("Woman says Roy Moore initiated sexual encounter when she was 14, he was 32")
Corfman's accusation formed the centerpiece of that Post report. But the Post quoted three other women by name—women who said they had interacted with Moore during the period on question.
We know of no reason to doubt their claims, though we might disagree with some aspects of their current judgments. More significantly, it's worth considering the journalistic judgment of the Washington Post, and the judgment of the stampeding mobs who began to cite these additional women as accusers.
Corfman was accusing Moore of a statutory sexual assault. Three days later, Nelson accused Moore of a violent sexual assault.
Each woman was accusing Moore of committing a serious felony. By way of possible contrast, the other three women in that first Post report were accusing Moore of taking them out on dates, or of asking them out on a date!
Indeed, he hadn't just taken them out on dates. In the case of two of these "accusers," he'd taken them out on dates with their full consent, and with the enthusiastic permission of their mothers! And not only that:
In the course of several months of dating, Moore had kissed two of these women—had done so several times! These were the people the Post presented, apparently as additional "accusers" in support of Corfman's account.
Wild horses of the Osage will be angry with us by this point. They'll feel that we're omitting the point that does, in fact, define these additional woman as accusers.
They'll claim that Moore's misconduct becomes clear in the Post's full account of their accusations. With that in mind, here is one such account from the Post's report:
MCCRUMMEN, REINHARD AND CRITES (11/10/17): Gloria Thacker Deason says she was 18 and Moore was 32 when they met in 1979 at the Gadsden Mall, where she worked at the jewelry counter of a department store called Pizitz. She says she was attending Gadsden State Community College and still living at home.The key point there is supposed to be Deason's age. During the several months when she dated Moore, she was 18, then 19 years old. He was 32.
"My mom was really, really strict and my curfew was 10:30 but she would let me stay out later with Roy," says Deason, who is now 57 and lives in North Carolina. "She just felt like I would be safe with him. . . . She thought he was good husband material."
Deason says that they dated off and on for several months and that he took her to his house at least two times. She says their physical relationship did not go further than kissing and hugging.
"He liked Eddie Rabbitt and I liked Freddie Mercury," Deason says, referring to the country singer and the British rocker.
She says that Moore would pick her up for dates at the mall or at college basketball games, where she was a cheerleader. She remembers changing out of her uniform before they went out for dinners at a pizzeria called Mater's, where she says Moore would order bottles of Mateus Rosé, or at a Chinese restaurant, where she says he would order her tropical cocktails at a time when she believes she was younger than 19, the legal drinking age.
"If Mother had known that, she would have had a hissy fit," says Deason, who says she turned 19 in May 1979, after she and Moore started dating.
Is it a good idea for someone who's 19 to date a man who's 32? Our nation's Dimmesdales have always known how to answer such questions.
Setting that question aside for another day, we'll lay out the apparent structure of the Post's initial report:
Central accusation: When I was 14, Roy Moore met me behind my mother's back and committed a statutory sexual assault on my person.To what extent does that second accusation sound like supporting evidence? To what extent does it sound like an "accusation" at all?
Supporting accusation: When I was 19, Roy Moore dated me for several months, kissing me several times. My mother, who was thrilled, was hoping we'd get married.
Because it's all anthropology now, we'll be exploring that second question all next week. We'll do so through an exploration of American culture as of 1979—the year when the film Manhattan was widely acclaimed, one year after Pretty Baby appeared to some minor critical clatter.
For today, we'll only say this. That "supporting accusation" almost sounds like the type of witness statement a defense attorney might have presented in court had Moore been charged with a crime for his alleged treatment of Corfman.
In the "accusations" by the two women Moore dated, he snuck around behind nobody's back; he barely so much as kissed them. In what way would these accounts support the claim that he had molested a 14-year-old at some point this same year?
We know of no reason to doubt Leigh Corfman's account. We know of no compelling reason to doubt Beverly Young Nelson's account.
Each woman has accused Moore of a serious crime. But in that original report, the supporting witnesses accused Moore of taking them out on dates and of kissing them several times as their mothers cheered him on.
Because it's all anthropology now, the way we liberals stampeded in the wake of these supporting stories may tell us more about ourselves than it does about Roy Moore. With Donald J. Trump careering more and more toward his upcoming nuclear war, none of this really matters any more. But if we might borrow what Luther once said:
If we knew Donald Trump would be ending the world today, we would continue to work in our anthropological garden.
We think the Post showed some shaky journalistic judgment in the way it presented that first report. This helps explain why Donald J. Trump is now in a position from which he may soon end the world.
As for our own self-impressed liberal tribe, we started our self-impressed "resistance" after Trump was elected and sworn. According to many anthropologists, we slept soundly for several decades before we started stampeding.
Tomorrow: One quick additional question
Next week: Welcome to your nation's culture in the last mid-century