- - Thursday, December 7, 2017

Roy Moore’s name is indelibly linked to sexual predation; but do you know the specific accusations and accusers? Quite a number of women say that Mr. Moore asked them out when they were aged 16 to 18, and that he got their parents’ permission to do so. All this, 26 to 40 years ago. It’s worth looking carefully at the claims and the evidence.

The first accuser is Beverly Nelson. She recounts how as a young lawyer Roy Moore frequently patronized the Alabama restaurant where she worked, and offered to give her a ride home one night. She said that Mr. Moore parked the car behind the restaurant and began to grope her. She fought back, and Mr. Moore eventually gave up.

All this was said to have happened a few feet from the restaurant. But other people say that they never saw “frequent patron” Roy Moore at the restaurant in the years they worked there, that the dark nook she claims he parked in didn’t exist, and that closing time was well after Ms. Nelson’s recollection of 10 p.m. They told reporters this, and were even taped, but the stories never appeared.

Ms. Nelson also briefly displayed a high school yearbook with an inscription ending, “Love, Roy Moore, D.A.” A photo CNN tweeted shows the inscription in black ink up through “Roy” and blue ink starting with “Moore.” Is the blue a later addition? The Class of ‘77 at Nelson’s school included Ray Jon and the Class of 1979, Ray Brooks. CNN tweeted another photo from the same press conference which has all black ink. Metabunk.org suggests chromatic aberration might make newer black ink look blue, but Ms. Nelson won’t let third parties examine the yearbook.

The second accuser is Leigh Corfman. She says Mr. Moore took off her shirt and pants and removed his clothes. But that’s also a bit wobbly. The Washington Post article tells us that Ms. Corfman has been divorced and filed for bankruptcy three times, and that her teen years were “reckless with drinking, drugs, boyfriends, and a suicide attempt when she was 16.”

The third woman is Tina Johnson. She accuses Mr. Moore, married six years and with a baby son, of grabbing her buttocks while she and her mother were walking out of his office. Ms. Johnson has a felony fraud conviction for writing bad checks, and was also convicted of larceny and entered a drug treatment program. Mr. Moore was the lawyer who successfully argued that Ms. Johnson was an unfit mother and the grandmother should get custody of her son. No bias there?

The remaining accusation, that Mr. Moore went out with teenagers when he was in his 30s, is reported by multiple women. I believe them. But what is wrong with that? No one but Ms. Corfman claims he took them out without their parents’ blessing. One of the women told The Washington Post her mother “just felt like I would safe with him. She thought he was good husband material.” Another told her daughter, “I’d say you were the luckiest girl in the world.” Apparently, Mr. Moore just wanted to marry a younger woman — someone like his wife of the last 32 years, a classmate of Beverly Nelson, who is 14 years younger than he.

President Emmanuel Macron of France is 24 years younger than his wife. Is he a victim? The wives of Presidents Dwight Eisenhower, George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter were 19 or younger on their wedding day. Are those men scoundrels? Quite a few first ladies married young: Abigail Adams (18), Elizabeth Monroe (17), Eliza Johnson (16), Mamie Eisenhower (19), Rosalynn Carter (18), and Barbara Bush (19). Frances Cleveland married Grover Cleveland in the White House when she was 21 and he was 49.

In today’s assortative marriages, the 30-something investment banker will marry a 30-something lawyer, but that’s not how people typically live or have lived across the continents and the centuries. Aristotle said that women should marry when they are about 18 and men at 37. In the 1977 South, 36 percent of first marriages included women in their teens, and 12 percent were 17 and under. We might think this odd, but that’s just because we’re WEIRD, as in “Western and Educated from Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic countries.”

The women who accuse Roy Moore of lewd advances lack credibility. He did court teenage girls, but what we see is consideration, not predation. Roy Moore should not be lumped together with Harvey Weinstein, Bill Clinton, Matt Lauer, Garrison Keillor, Al Gore, Charlie Rose, John Conyers and Al Franken.

Eric Rasmusen is the Dan R. and Catherine M. Dalton Professor for the Department of Business Economics and Public Policy in the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University.

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