With barely an hour’s notice, the Roy Moore campaign announced it would hold a news conference Wednesday afternoon.
There was intense speculation about what the embattled Republican Senate candidate would say as he faced the media for the first time since allegations of sexual conduct transformed what was supposed to be an easy win for his party on Dec. 12 into a national GOP nightmare. In the end, Moore didn’t show. His attorney, Phillip L. Jauregui, did most of the talking in an appearance with Moore’s campaign chairman that spanned less than eight minutes.
WHAT DID THEY SAY?
Like a courtroom attorney before a judge, Jauregui focused on two key points in an attempt to undermine the credibility of Moore’s latest accuser. On Monday, a tearful Beverly Young Nelson said Moore aggressively groped her in a locked car when she was 16 years old. Jauregui seized on one detail in Nelson’s account: that she hadn’t had any contact with Moore since the alleged incident. It turns out, the lawyer said, that Moore was the judge assigned to her divorce case more than 20 years after the alleged assault. Jauregui handed out copies of a court filing from the divorce proceeding signed by Moore, but they do not reflect whether Moore ever saw the woman in court during the proceeding. “There was contact,” Jauregui insisted.
Moore’s attorney was more aggressive on his second point. The only evidence Nelson had against Moore, Jauregui noted, was a high school yearbook with the inscription, “To a sweeter more beautiful girl I could not say `Merry Christmas,”’ that appeared to be signed by Moore, who was in his 30s at the time. The campaign had a handwriting expert examine the signature, but Jauregui said it was too difficult to verify its authenticity from photos.
The campaign is sending a letter to the alleged victim’s attorney, Gloria Allred, “demanding” that the yearbook be released. “We need to have our handwriting expert draw some conclusions,” Jauregui said. “I’m not going to draw them today. I’m not going to make any allegations without an expert.”
WHAT DIDN’T THEY SAY?
A lot. To start, Moore himself didn’t say anything. He’s had a limited public schedule in recent days and, save for one radio interview, he hasn’t addressed the media at all since allegations of sexual misconduct first surfaced last week. Those speaking for him had little to say beyond two specific points designed to undercut Moore’s latest accuser. They didn’t answer any questions. The event was billed as a press conference, but both men retreated to the state GOP headquarters immediately after making brief remarks. They ignored several questions as reporters followed them to the door.
Their comments also ignored Moore’s other accusers. At least three other women beyond Nelson have made accusations against Moore. One told The Washington Post on the record that Moore touched her over her bra and underwear when she was 14. Moore’s team skipped over that accusation, along with those of two other women who said Moore pursued them as a 30-something district attorney when they were teenagers.
Finally, Moore’s team did not speak directly to the wave of Republican leaders – including Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a former Alabama senator – who have said the allegations against Moore are credible. Many have called for him to quit the race, while some have threatened to expel him from the Senate even if he wins. On Wednesday at least, Moore had nothing to say to them.