On Nov. 9, when reports first surfaced that at least four women accused Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore of having made inappropriate sexual advances at them when he was in his 30s and they were underage teens, many prominent Republicans quickly responded to the news by saying Moore needed to step down from his candidacy if the allegations were true.
But Moore also has his share of defenders, including Alabama state auditor Jim Zeigler, who did not deny the allegations but dismissed them as unworthy of note, and also defended Moore by citing various Biblical accounts of old man/young woman pairings, including Jesus’ earthly parents Mary and Joseph. Here’s five things to know:
1. Zeigler Called the Allegations Much Ado About Little
On Nov. 9 the Washington Post reported that four women gave on-the-record accounts claiming Roy Moore had initiated sexual encounters with them when he was in his early 30s and they in their early teens. One woman, Leigh Corfman, said she was 14 and Moore 32 when these events occurred.
Moore denied the allegations. But Jim Zeigler, the Alabama State Auditor, told the Washington Examiner that “There is nothing to see here … the allegations are that a man in his early 30s dated teenage girls.” Zeigler also defended Moore by citing Biblical examples of men involved with younger women. “Take the Bible. Zachariah and Elizabeth for instance. Zachariah was extremely old to marry Elizabeth and they became the parents of John the Baptist. Also take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus. … There’s just nothing immoral or illegal here. Maybe just a little bit unusual.”
In addition, Zeigler defended Moore’s apparent preference for teenaged girls far younger than he by pointing out that Moore eventually married one of them. He said that Moore began dating his eventual wife Kayla around the same time as his alleged encounters with Corfman and his other accusers. “He dated her. He married her, and they’ve been married about 35 years. They’re blessed with a wonderful marriage and his wife Kayla is 14 years younger than Moore,” Zeigler told the Examiner.
2. Zeigler Later Defended his Remarks on Twitter
On Twitter, Zeigler goes by the name “Auditor Jim Zeigler,” and his bio says “Zeigler is the elected State Auditor of Alabama. He advocates against wasteful government spending, a never-ending battle.” Unsurprisingly, a scroll through his past tweets shows strong support for Roy Moore an President Trump, and strong dislike of Hillary Clinton. On Oct. 31, for example, he tweeted a news story under a quote from him: “Jim Zeigler: ‘Hillary’s opposition will backfire. If she continues to criticize Roy Moore, it will help Moore in Alabama.'”
Thursday afternoon, after his Biblical defense of Moore’s alleged behavior became known, he went on Twitter to defend himself against critics there. One woman who goes by Jennifer Garlen tweeted “Remind me never to let @jimzeigler anywhere near my teenage daughter or a civics classroom full of young girls. Shame on him! Disgusting.” In response, Zeigler tweeted “Roy Moore married a woman 14 years younger and they have a blessed marriage 33 years later.”
Despite his earlier suggestion to the Washington Examiner that Moore’s alleged behavior was no big deal if it happened, Zeigler later made three other tweets dismissing the allegations, replaying to various tweeting critics that “He did not do this. 38 years ago.” “Moore says it is not true. This allegation came 38 years later. He denies.” and “No child molestation took place.”
3. Zeigler is not the Only Alabama Republican to Defend Moore
According to Daniel Dale, the Toronto Star’s Washington correspondent, various state-level GOP operatives in Alabama have offered him various defenses of Moore. Dale tweeted that Marion County GOP chair David Hall told him that “It was 40 years ago. I really don’t see the relevance of it. He was 32. She was supposedly 14. She’s not saying that anything happened other than they kissed.”
(Leigh Corfman actually said, among other things, that Moore stripped her down to her underwear, felt her body over her bra and underpants, and put her hand on his underwear to feel what he had underneath.)
Dale also quoted Geneva County GOP chair Riley Seibenhener as saying “Other than being with an underage person – he didn’t really force himself. I know that’s bad enough, but I don’t know. If he withdraws, it’s five weeks to the election…that would concede it to the Democrat.” William Blocker, Covington County’s GOP chairman, told Dale that the four women who complained about Moore to the Washington Post only did so because Democrats had persuaded them to tell lies damaging to Moore’s reputation. Upon hearing that Corfman, who was 14 when Moore allegedly molested her, went on to become a Trump voter, Blocker then told Dale “That’s the typical background or profile of somebody they would be using for that.”
Mobile County’s GOP chairman John Skipper also told Dale the stories were merely a Democratic smear campaign: “It does not really surprise me. I think it is a typical Democratic – Democrat – ploy to discredit Judge Moore, a sincere, honest, trustworthy individual.” As for Bibb County Republican chariman Jerry Pow, he told Dale he would vote for Moore even if the sex crime allegations against him were true: “I would vote for Judge Moore because I wouldn’t want to vote for Doug [Jones, Moore’s Democratic opponent in next month’s special senatorial election].”
4. Zeigler Once Compared Democratic Congresswomen to the Ku Klux Klan
Last March, Zeigler came under fire for an image he posted on Facebook: a photo showing a group of Democratic Congresswomen all dressed in white, under a photo of hooded KKK members “Now appearing without hoods.” As NBC news affiliate WSFA.com noted, the Congresswomen seen in the photo included U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, Alabama’s only Democratic and African-American member of Congress.
Sewell responded to Zeigler’s stunt with a statement saying “I wore white to President Trump’s Joint Session address in solidarity with my other female colleagues to honor those American women who sacrificed so that all women could have an equal voice in our democracy. It is highly insulting and completely disrespectful for Alabama’s State Auditor Ziegler to equate the celebration of woman’s rights into a vile statement of racial hatred like the KKK. He should apologize for behavior so offensive and unbecoming of any elected official. His voters should hold him accountable for such shameful disregard of women.”
When reporters asked Zeigler if he felt he’d made a fair comparison between the two groups, he said “it compared visually. The two pictures looked basically alike.” He also added that Sewell’s decision to be photographed in white made her “fair game” for criticism, according to WSFA.
5. Zeigler Might Run for Governor of Alabama in 2018
The web address of Zeigler’s Facebook page includes the username ZeiglerWasteCutter, but the page’s actual name is “Jim Zeigler Exploratory Campaign for Governor.”
On Nov. 6 he posted the following question to his page’s followers:
One year from today – Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018 – we will elect Alabama’s next governor.
Please help me with a vital decision. Should I run for governor, or run for re-election as State Auditor? It is vital that we have a state official to be a watchman against waste, mismanagement and corruption. I have worked toward the goal of being a watchman as State Auditor (despite limited authority and a budget unreasonably slashed by the Bentley administration). I could do more as governor with much higher authority to get things done.
Please advise by your comment below. Zeigler for Governor, or Zeigler for State Auditor in 2018?
Zeigler has another Facebook page called “Draft Jim Zeigler for Governor 2018,” but that has not been updated since June.