Politics

FACT CHECK: Did 53 Pastors Defend Roy Moore Against Sexual Assault Allegations?

A popular Alabama news outlet reported Monday that more than 50 pastors had signed a letter of support for GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore, amid allegations of sexual assault.

The report came after the candidate’s wife, Kayla Moore, posted the letter Sunday on Facebook.

Verdict: False

The news outlet, AL.com, has since revised its reporting after multiple pastors on the list came forward saying they had not consented to the letter. At least three pastors have asked for their names to be removed, while several others have since reaffirmed their support for Moore.

Fact Check:

Social media users reacted strongly to the news report, which as of Tuesday afternoon had been shared more than 100,000 times.

“This is not a joke. It’s not an Onion headline,” tweeted musician Mikel Jollett. “50 Alabama PASTORS have signed a letter in support of Roy Moore.”

“More like 50 pastors sign letter of support for statutory rape,” tweeted comedian Steve Agee.

But at least four pastors have come forward saying they did not consent to their names being used in the letter, according to ThinkProgress. “I was not asked about this story or allegations,” Tijuanna Adetunji of the Fresh Anointing House of Worship told AL.com.

Joseph Smith, another pastor listed in the letter, told a local Fox affiliate that he only agreed to support Moore during the primary campaign and did not consent to Sunday’s letter.

The post by Moore’s wife is similar to a “pastor’s letter” on the candidate’s campaign website that appears to have been published during the primary – long before allegations of sexual assault arose against Moore.

“The list that has recently circulated was evidently copied and pasted from the August endorsements without checking to see if I still endorsed Moore,” Pastor Thad Endicott told AL.com.

Although some endorsements may be outdated, a Tennessee pastor named in the letter insists that he never endorsed Moore and hasn’t spoken with him in over a decade.

At least three pastors listed doubt the allegations and continue to offer Moore support. “I’ve known him my whole life, and I’ve never known him to do anything inappropriate,” Rev. Jamie Holcomb told CNN.

Moore’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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