With her husband's Senate campaign in crisis due to multiple women accusing him of romantic come-ons (and worse) when they were high schoolers and he was an adult in his 30's, the wife of Roy Moore has become a factory of misinformation. Kayla Moore has used social media to spread false, misleading and scurrilous stories meant to discredit the accusers and boost her husband's image. This "kitchen sink" approach looks desperate and flailing, and does her husband no favors regarding the perception of his guilt. Effective defenses would be factual, not dishonest, hysterical and manipulative.
I spent several hours today tracking down one key piece of verifiable information related to this case. Mrs. Moore shared a post on Facebook claiming that the Olde Hickory House restaurant, where Beverly Young said she worked as a waitress, did not exist in 1977. It opened in 2001, the post asserted. If this were true, Young's entire story would fall apart, considering that the eatery was the location where she says she met Moore (she says was he a regular client; he claims he doesn't know her or the restaurant), where he is said to have signed her high school yearbook, and where he allegedly attempted to sexually assault her in the parking lot. Simple question: Did the restaurant exist where and when Young says it did, or have Moore's allies found a smoking gun?
I conducted web searches, exchanged messages with potential sources, and placed multiple phone calls to city and county officials, the public library, and local media publications. After digging around, several people told me they thought they remembered the restaurant, which they believed was open many years ago (well before 2001), but they couldn't say for sure. I was also told that the public records I sought only started being stored in digital form in the early 2000's, so any official information would only be retrievable in hard copy or on microfilm. I was finally connected with a local journalist who'd been chasing the same set of facts. After all, if the post Mrs. Moore highlighted was accurate, it would be a major blow to the case against Moore, as the most serious allegations from the most recent accuser would go up in smoke. But if turned out that she was once again engaged in reckless, fact-free, say-anything damage control, it would buttress the Ms. Young's credibility and make the Moore camp look frantic and guilty. Here is the verdict, courtesy of two local reporters. Based on a 1978 city directory, which listed local businesses from the previous year, the Olde Hickory House restaurant was in operation at that location in 1977, just as Young said:
City directory confirms Ole Hickory House stood at 305 East Meighan Blvd in Gadsden in 1977. Site now has Rally’s. pic.twitter.com/5SG707uwJp— WilliamThornton (@billineastala) November 14, 2017
Mr. Thornton also dug up an old newspaper ad for the location, which was printed in 1978. Here's another one from the same era:
This does not prove that Ms. Young worked there, that Moore was a regular, or that he assaulted her -- but it does prove that a foolish, baseless claim repeated by Moore's wife to undermine Young was complete garbage. If journalists are able to establish that Moore dined at the Olde Hickory House frequently, his blanket denial will be dead. It's worth noting that Mrs. Moore has also (a) shared the baseless allegation that previous accusers had been paid, (b) promulgated the nonsense that Leigh Corfman's (the first accuser) mother said her daughter was lying, based on the location of a telephone in their family home, and (c) appears to have recycled a pre-scandal list of pastors who once supported her husband's candidacy -- at least three of whom now say she did not get their permission to include them as current backers and have asked to be removed from the roster. Separate attempts to "prove" Moore's innocence include doctoring images of the yearbook inscription he appears to have made out to Young in 1977 (compare the altered image with the actual image):
The "forgery" claim partially relies on a doctored image floating around. The idea that no one would notice black vs. blue ink is preposterous. The conspiracy image (w/ blue ink), vs. the one held up at the press conference, pulled directly from the raw video: pic.twitter.com/3Czow9UZQk— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) November 14, 2017
This apparent hoax originates from a Twitter feed that also falsely asserted that the Olde Hickory House was never spelled with an 'e,' which is disproven by both the city directory and contemporaneous advertisement shown above. (UPDATE: CNN tweeted the apparently-doctored image, lending credence to the theory). Others are resting their theories on the numeral '7' looking slightly different in separate elements of the yearbook message (perhaps the least ridiculous and most compelling objection being raised), which shifts from cursive in the note to printed letters after the signature. A separate theory brewing involves speculating that Young couldn't have received her yearbook in December, as she says (which I've addressed, with other social media users and reporters stating that the timeline was entirely plausible, especially because she transferred high schools). As for Mrs. Moore's stream of rash falsehoods, her defenders will say that it's understandable, if not romantic, that a woman would do anything she could to help her embattled spouse. (Surely they feel the same way about Hillary Clinton). But that defensive impulse, no matter how relatable, should not give anyone license to repeatedly create or spread fake information. I'd also bet that if the roles were reversed and the accusers' families were exposed as sharing fraudulent claims in defense of their loved ones, Mrs. Moore's apologists would wield those disproven claims as evidence against the women's stories.
To recap: Debunking Kayla Moore's conspiratorial social media posts does not affirmatively prove that Roy Moore is guilty of what his accusers say he did -- even if even more accounts about his pattern of behavior with teenage girls continue to crop up. It does, however, call into question the credibility of Moore's most ardent defenders, whose desperate and sloppy theorizing undercuts their trustworthiness as sources every time a bogus claim is raised and cut down. And again, what would be truly devastating to Moore's pushback is compelling evidence -- in the form of records or witnesses -- that can blow up his statement that he never met Corfman or Young, or that he didn't dine at the Olde Hickory House in the late 1970s. I'm open to changing my mind based on proof (that's why I followed the evidence about the restaurant today), but as of right now, my tentative conclusion remains the same: The women are credible. He, and the fever swamp toiling on his behalf, are not. Drain the swamp.