Gloria Allred is a highly accomplished, if controversial, lawyer who is admired — or reviled — for her sensational representation of women who are alleged victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment. Yet on Wednesday she committed a major blunder when she declined a public invitation by the attorney representing Roy Moore, Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Alabama, to have a key piece of evidence examined by independent experts.
Earlier that afternoon, attorney Phillip L. Jauregui questioned some of the claims by Allred’s client, Beverly Young Nelson, who emerged Monday to accuse Moore of sexual assault several decades ago. In particular, Jauregui said that Nelson’s claim that she had no subsequent contact with Moore was false, because he had adjudicated her divorce in 1999. And he challenged a signature in Nelson’s high school yearbook that she claimed was Moore’s.
Jauregui noted that handwriting experts “can’t look at a copy on the Internet … they’ve got to look at an original.” He demanded that Allred release the yearbook to a “neutral custodian” so that a “professional expert” could examine it to determine whether the signature was genuine — or, as he contended, a “fraud.” He said that Allred would be free to send her own handwriting expert to examine the yearbook and the signature for herself.
Allred then called into CNN, reaching Wolf Blitzer live on The Situation Room. She said that she would be willing to submit the yearbook to “an independent expert or experts” — but only once her client and Moore had testified under oath before the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Select Committee on Ethics before the election. She would not agree to have the yearbook examined otherwise, claiming “we’re not going to be distracted.”
That was a major mistake. By trying to use the yearbook — the critical piece of evidence in establishing Nelson’s credibility — as leverage to force a Senate hearing before the election, Allred seemed to put politics ahead of the truth. Worse, she opened herself and her client to questions about whether they have something to hide. Whatever the truth of Jauregui’s claims that the yearbook signature is a “fraud,” Allred lent those claims greater credibility.
Allred also gave Moore’s supporters a reason to stand behind him. It will be difficult, at best, to discover what really happened three or four decades ago. All the public can rely on is the credibility of Moore and his accusers today. And while Moore has given inconsistent answers, all he needs to do to survive until Election Day is to create some doubt about the allegations. Allred gave him that opportunity — to the detriment of her client and other accusers.