DOTHAN, Ala. — On the eve of a special election for an open U.S. Senate seat, embattled Republican politician Roy Moore told voters in the state that they shouldn’t support him if they have doubts about his integrity.
“If you don’t believe in my character, don’t vote for me,” Moore said at a rally with a few hundred supporters Tuesday night.
The race to between Moore and Democrat Doug Jones, which will decide who fills the seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, is too close to call. Polling results over the past few weeks have been all over the map.
Moore’s wife, Kayla, introduced him and rattled off the numerous ways in which the campaign has been what she called a “horrific battle.” She, like many speakers throughout the night, demonized the press for reporting information that is unflattering to her husband. Perhaps the most memorable line she delivered, however, sparked more controversy.
“Fake news will tell you that we don’t care for Jews,” a defiant Mrs. Moore said. “Now I tell you all this because I’ve seen it all so I can set the record straight while they’re here. One of our attorneys is a Jew.”
Moore, 70, has been accused of sexually assaulting a 14-year old girl when he was in his early 30s, and other women have said Moore pursued them during that same period when they were teenagers.
“This race has been strange,” Moore said at one point, and the speakers who preceded him often seemed intent on proving that.
Throughout the three-hour rally, those who spoke to the crowd denounced the professional press as “fake” — a term coined by President Trump — or as the “lynch mob media,” while touting claims about Moore’s accusers drawn either from pro-Trump sources such as Fox News and Breitbart News or from fictitious stories that have gained purchase on social media.
Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, homed in on inaccurate stories of a forged note by one woman, and told a tale of a man who had been accused of molesting his daughter, only to have it emerge he was “set up by his wife.”
A Vietnam War veteran named Bill Staley who served with Moore told a story of being taken to a brothel by a fellow soldier where he said young girls were working, and claimed that Moore left as soon as he realized where they were.
“I’m not buying it,” Staley said of the accusations against Moore.
Steve Bannon, the former White House adviser to Trump who is now back running Breitbart News, spoke at length before Moore.
Bannon described the Alabama race as a “firebreak” to turn political momentum in favor of Trump. Since Democrats stormed to huge wins in Virginia last month — winning a contested race for governor and swamping Republicans in state legislature races — Democrats have had the political advantage.
“This is a national election,” Bannon said.
Nonetheless, he did lament the fact that the race in Alabama would have been a sure win for Republicans if Moore had not come under suspicion for unethical and possibly illegal behavior.
“This should be a blowout,” Bannon said.
Outside the rally, a small but hardy group of protesters shouted their support for the Democrat Jones.
“Country over party,” they yelled as Moore supporters drove away from the event.
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