Senate candidate Roy Moore of Alabama received an unlikely late-campaign boost Friday from one of his own accusers, who acknowledged that she incorrectly described Moore's inscription in her high school yearbook.
Beverly Young Nelson was not among the five women who have told The Washington Post that Moore pursued them when they were teenagers. She came forward later with attorney Gloria Allred.
In an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America" on Friday, Nelson clarified that she had added notes to what she said was Moore's inscription to her in her yearbook. In a news conference with Allred later in the day, Nelson said she stands by her claim that Moore sexually assaulted her when she was 16 years old, while she worked as a waitress at the Olde Hickory House restaurant in Gadsden, Alabama.
Allred said Friday that Moore did not write several notes at the end of the inscription. That text consists of the location, the date and the initials "D.A." after the signature that Nelson says is Moore's. Allred said those notes were added later by Nelson "to remind herself of who Roy Moore was and where and when Mr. Moore signed her yearbook."
President Trump jumped on the development during a boisterous campaign-style rally Friday night in Pensacola, Florida – just about 20 miles from the Alabama border – asking his audience if they had seen what happened as he plugged Moore's candidacy.
"There was a little mistake made. She started writing things in the yearbook," Trump told a near-capacity crowd in a 10,000-seat hockey arena, before taking a dig at Allred.
"Anytime you see her, you know something is wrong," Trump said.
He went on to make a now-familiar argument for electing Moore, saying the country can't afford to have a "liberal Democrat" representing Alabama in the Senate.
"So get out and vote for Roy Moore," Trump said. "Do it."
For the Moore campaign, which has been working to raise doubts about multiple accusations that he made sexual advances toward teenage girls when he was in his 30s, the Allred announcement was greeted as a political gift, and the campaign worked to suggest that more falsehoods would be revealed, without describing them specifically.
The Moore campaign repeated its call for Nelson to release her yearbook to an independent analyst so that the handwriting attributed to Moore can be analyzed.
"The truth is out there, and until she releases the yearbook, all we know is that they are not telling the truth," Phillip Jauregui, a lawyer for the Moore campaign, said at a brief news conference.
The Moore campaign took no questions from reporters. Moore, who has not appeared in public since a rally Tuesday with former White House strategist Stephen Bannon, did not attend the news conference.
In her initial statement, Nelson said that Moore had written the entire inscription in her yearbook. "He wrote in my yearbook as follows," Nelson said. " 'To a sweeter and more beautiful girl I could not say Merry Christmas. Christmas 1977. Love Roy Moore, Olde Hickory House.' And he signed it 'Roy Moore D.A.' "
Allred said Friday that an independent forensic handwriting analyst had examined the signature, and the handwriting preceding the signature, and concluded they were written by Moore.
"We did not ask the expert to examine the printing after the cursive writing and signature," Allred said Friday.
Allred did not say when Nelson wrote the additional words into the yearbook.
The Moore campaign previously attacked the credibility of Nelson's account by pointing out the difference in writing styles in the inscription. Moore advisers have also noted that in the past, Moore had an assistant with the initials "D.A.," which would be printed next to Moore's signature when she signed documents on his behalf with a stamp. Those initials were used, campaign officials say, on a copy of a document related to Nelson's own divorce, which briefly came before Moore when he was a judge.
Allred reiterated Nelson's willingness to testify under oath to the U.S. Senate about her experience with Moore. Nelson has said that Moore offered to drive her home when she was a 16-year-old waitress at the Olde Hickory House. She says that Moore instead parked the car and sexually assaulted her.
"We are very transparent," Allred said.
At the Moore campaign's news conference Friday, campaign chairman Bill Armistead pointed reporters to a report on conservative websites claiming to have uncovered coordination between The Post and Tim Miller, a Republican campaign operative. The report features a text-message exchange with Miller that conservative sites cast as evidence that he had a role in the article – a claim that Miller and The Post denied.
"Tim Miller had absolutely nothing to do with our story," said Washington Post National Editor Steven Ginsberg.
As disclosed previously, while reporting a separate story in Alabama, a Post reporter heard that Moore allegedly had sought relationships with teenage girls. Over the ensuing three weeks, two Post reporters contacted and interviewed the initial accusers. All were initially reluctant to speak publicly but chose to do so after multiple interviews, saying they thought it was important for people to know about their interactions with Moore. The women say they do not know one another.
Six women have told The Post that Moore pursued them in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Five were teenagers at the time, and one was 22; Moore was in his early 30s. One woman, Leigh Corfman, said she was 14 and Moore was 32 when he took her to his house, gave her alcohol and touched her sexually.
Nelson's account has not been independently verified by The Post. But The Post did interview another accuser, Debbie Wesson Gibson, who shared a scrapbook from her senior year in high school containing a similar inscription and signature from Moore. His campaign has not specifically contested Gibson's account.
In recent weeks, Moore has said of his accusers, "I did not know any of them." This contradicts an interview Moore gave with Sean Hannity on Nov. 10, in which Moore said he knew two of the accusers when they were teenagers. He told Hannity that he did not remember dating girls between the ages of 16 and 18 but could not rule it out.
"I don't remember dating any girl without the permission of her mother," Moore said.
Trump waited until about 40 minutes into his remarks Friday before bringing up the Alabama Senate race before a crowd in a Florida panhandle city in the Mobile, Alabama, media market.
Trump's political team scheduled the rally last week after looking at polls that showed Moore likely to win – and Trump increasingly determined to back him.
Trump didn't go to Alabama, several aides said, because it would be a "distraction" and carried too much risk. So instead they got as close as they could.
Additionally, Trump is not personally fond of Moore and felt little compulsion to hold a rally in his honor, aides said. Plus, one adviser said, if Moore loses, it won't be because Trump campaigned for him.
The Pensacola crowd was sprinkled with voters who crossed the state line from Alabama, including Alisha Maddalena, a restaurant server from Deatsville, who came with her husband, who is president of the south Alabama chapter of Bikers for Trump.
Maddalena, 51, said she was heartened by Trump's support for Moore but was backing the judge regardless.
As for Moore's accusers, Maddalena said they should have come forward sooner if there were any truth to their allegations.
"I have no compassion for women who wait that long, who can't come and speak out at the time, no matter how old they are," she said, adding that it's hard to believe that such allegations wouldn't have surfaced by now in a small town. "If things like that are going on, you'd definitely hear about it."