MONTGOMERY, Alabama — Frank Luntz, a GOP establishment messaging consultant, was visibly flabbergasted as every single one of his focus group participants in a Birmingham area Vice News-produced panel backed Judge Roy Moore for U.S. Senate.
Titled “Why These Alabama Voters Are Sticking By Roy Moore,” Luntz’s Vice News focus group aired on Vice News Tonight on Dec. 8 on HBO.
“Are you all Christians here?” Luntz opens the seven-and-a-half-minute long segment. “Yes,” all of the focus group participants, who joined Luntz in a Birmingham area restaurant, replied.
“Is Roy Moore a good Christian?” he followed up.
“Yes,” one woman replied. “Absolutely,” another said.
“Absolutely?” Luntz followed up in disbelief. “Yes,” the woman shot back. “Without any doubt whatsoever?” Luntz asked again.
After some more back and forth, a man in the focus group spoke up. Scottie Porter, a real estate developer, said:
He’s not my choice, I’m not voting for him because I like him. I’m voting for him because I don’t want Doug Jones. But Roy Moore is entitled to the presumption of innocence in the law and in the Bible just like anybody else should be. There are only accusations. There have been no charges filed. All you have is a group of women who have come forward.
“How many? How many?” Luntz pressed Porter.
“Seven,” he replied.
“There’s really only three,” one woman yelled out.
“How many women have to come forward before you say ‘wait a minute, where there’s smoke there’s fire’?” Luntz asked the group.
Chuck Moore, a retired sales consultant, replied: “It’s about the legitimacy, not just how many. How many are not being paid? Or being coerced to do this?”
“How many of them do you think are being paid?” Luntz asked the group.
“All of them,” some replied in unison.
“By a show of hands, how many of you think all the women are being paid?” Luntz asked the full group.
Three hands in the group went up.
“Seriously?” Luntz asked in disbelief, before the camera turned to homemaker Jane Wade.
“To me, there are only two women that have a smoking gun but the women’s—their reputations are questionable at the time,” Wade said.
“Is this how you want to be treated as a woman if something were to happen to you? Do you want to be dismissed that way?” Luntz asked Gina Doran, a retired school bus driver.
“You better have proof,” Doran fired back at Luntz.
“You know, it doesn’t sound like it went beyond there were still clothes on,” Wade interjected. “It doesn’t sound like it went beyond anything, and that as soon as the girl said she wasn’t comfortable he took her home.”
“I guess my question is: You blame her?” Luntz pressed. “She’s 14.”
“I’m not blaming her,” Wade replied. “I’m blaming both of them. I didn’t say I thought he was without sin. It’s possible that he did it. But it’s possible that he could be forgiven for—I don’t think he raped her. I don’t think he—“
At that point, Porter chimed back in: “Let’s be real. It was a different world. Forty years ago in Alabama, people could get married at 13 and 14 years old.”
“Yeah,” Wade said.
“My grandmother, at 13, was married,” Porter continued. “At 15, [she] had two children and a husband and a job. If Roy Moore was guilty, if he was at the mall hitting on this 14-year-old, 40 years ago in Alabama, there’s a lot of mamas and daddies who would be thrilled that their 14-year-old was getting hit on by a district attorney.”
Rhonda Richardson, a nursing assistant, said she dated older men when she was 16-years-old.
“I dated an older man at 16,” she said. “So we don’t really—“
“How old was he?” Luntz asked.
“Thirty-one,” she responded, the same age group in which Moore was accused of engaging in this various behavior. “I’m not going to say that the 14-year-old—I don’t believe her, to be honest, the one that says she was 14, I don’t believe her. But for all of us, as a woman, I think we all have pretty much been in the situation where there’s been sexual harassment.”
Luntz, stunned, turned to Richardson and said: “Think about what you’re saying. You’re calling all nine of those women liars. Nine women. When it happened to you, did you want people to trust you?”
“I never told anybody,” she answered. “And if I was going to tell somebody, I would not have waited 38 years to tell it. I would—that’s what’s mind-boggling. Why wait until now, at an election, to come forward and say ‘oh’?”
Then the conversation turned to financial trading instructor Harry Vance, who said:
Okay, Frank, what you’re wanting to know is—we’re a bunch of conservatives here, and you want to know why we’re going to vote for Roy Moore. My wife went to high school with Roy. She said in high school, Roy was a hard worker and American success story if you will. He always aimed for higher things. However, neither she nor I have ever voted for Roy up until now. We intend to vote for Roy because of the opponent that’s running. Right now, as far as I’m concerned, we’ve probably got two miserable candidates. In my opinion, we ought to go with the conservative, we ought to go with somebody we know is going to vote conservative. And that’s what I’m looking for.”
“Roy Moore is not a miserable man,” retired nail salon owner Peggy Montalbano said. “This man has more integrity than you can find in the entire Congress right now. Don’t fall for the George Soros assassination plan.”
Doran signaled agreement with Montalbano.
“The truth is will come out,” Montalbano said. “These women are all going to be proven [wrong]. Just like the 16 that went against President Trump, just right before the election.”
“What about the accusers of Bill Clinton?” Luntz asked her.
“The accusers of Clinton, everybody knows he’s a womanizer,” Montalbano said.
“But people think the same thing about Roy Moore,” Luntz said.
“But with Bill Clinton, they went to the courthouse and they filed papers,” Porter answered for the group. “They didn’t wait 40 years to do it. That’s a huge difference than just going to the media only just six weeks before an election.”
WATCH THE FULL FOCUS GROUP FROM VICE NEWS: