In a press conference on November 13, Beverly Young Nelson, accompanied by attorney Gloria Allred, accused Roy Moore of sexually assaulting her when she was a teenager—marking the final in a series of allegations of sexual misconduct against the Congressional candidate and former state Supreme Court Justice from Alabama. Nelson’s story came out on the heels of a damning report by the Washington Post alleging that Moore frequently engaged in illicit relations with teenagers during his time as Alabama District Attorney. Leigh Corfman, who came forward in the report, accused Moore of assaulting her when she was 14 and he was 32—alleging that Moore lured her into his residence, stripped down to his underwear, began kissing her and then removed her outer garments and attempted to guide her hand towards his genitals. Other accusations against Moore included the supplication of alcohol to minors.
Republican senators across the country initially responded to the allegations with rousing condemnations of Moore and his actions. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R- KY) insisted Moore should “step aside” in light of the reports; Sen. John McCain (R- AZ) called the alleged acts “deeply disturbing and disqualifying.” Other Congressional GOP members have since released statements urging Moore to rescind his candidacy from the senatorial race if the accusations prove true.
But Moore and his supporters aren’t backing down—they’re doubling down. In the weeks since The Post broke its story, they have tried to discredit the news outlets and the survivors coming forward. But their tactics, steeped mostly in victim-blaming and slut-shaming, have failed—succeeding instead at demonstrating the power of a re-invigorated movement against rape culture that has emerged in the wake of widespread sexual harassment, assault and abuse allegation from Hollywood to Washington.
After the Post broke its story, Moore threatened to sue the paper, claiming collusion with Democrats as part of a plot to derail his campaign, and launched character assassination campaigns against his accusers. In the weeks since, right-wing media operatives have risen to the occasion to help him: Former White House Chief Strategist and former Chair of Breitbart News Steve Bannon, an outspoken supporter of Moore, denounced the allegations as utterly fabricated—calling the report “nothing less than the politics of personal destruction.” Back in Alabama, Breitbart News had commissioned representatives to discredit Moore’s accusers, seeking evidence to corroborate falsification claims. And Project Veritas, an organization dedicated to discrediting major news outlets, picked up where Breitbart left off.
On Monday, The Post revealed that a woman associated with the organization approached the paper with false allegations of sexual misconduct against Moore in an effort to discredit their previous reporting. Jaime Phillips, who told The Post that Moore had raped and impregnated her at 15 and then encouraged her to get an abortion, pressured reporter Beth Reinhard during an in-person meeting to make a statement as to the projected impact an article about her story would have on Moore’s Senate bid. When questioned by reporters about Phillips’ affiliation with his organization, Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe—who in 2010 was convicted of a misdemeanor in trying to enter a federal building using fraudulent identification— declined to comment.
Efforts to discredit The Post and Moore’s accusers rely on the prevalence of victim-blaming and what has been a typical reluctance in U.S. culture to believe survivors of sexual assault. But these efforts have come at a time of great sea change—one where survivors are being believed, and, together with their allies, are demonstrating their might by demanding accountability and justice. Will this new landscape where rape and other forms of sexual abuse are no longer commonplace and normalized be the new normal?
Sarah Alexander is a recent graduate of Cal State Northridge. In addition to being a writer, she is a visual and performing artist, and attempts to use film, music and online platforms to spark conversation about social activism. She is an anomalous LA native, which affects her personality in a plethora of unique ways.