On a recent morning at the studios of 105.5 WERC, it’s quiet. The sun’s not up yet and the city lights poke through the windows. Executive producer Wade Smith is checking several computer monitors to make sure everything’s ready for this edition of “Alabama’s Morning News with JT.”
“It’s just gonna be a day where we don’t really know what to expect, but we know where the show is headed,” says Smith.
In other words, Roy Moore is the only thing on people’s minds.
Alabama’s Senate race is a huge topic of conversation after allegations of sexual assault against Republican candidate Roy Moore. Five women now say Moore pursued or sexually assaulted them in the 1970s when they were teenagers and he was an assistant district attorney in his early 30s.
Host JT Nysewander launches right into it.
“Is it time for Roy Moore to step aside?” he asks as the show begins.
They’re just minutes into the show when producer Wade Smith answers the phone with an unexpected caller. It’s Bill Armistead, Roy Moore’s campaign manager.
“[I] love days when that happens,” Smith says. “Sometimes people just call us out of the blue from campaigns.”
They put him on the air.
Armistead says Moore is innocent of the sexual assault allegations. He says Democrats and establishment Republicans have made them up to keep Moore out of Washington and the campaign will prove it.
“There’s a lot of information. Information that we believe is very credible that’ll demonstrate that these charges are all cooked up,” Armistead says. “So all I can say is ‘Folks, stay tuned. We’re gonna do our best to get it out there as quickly as we can.'”
That’s the campaign’s official response. Moore supporters calling in are just as adamant. One woman calls it all “fake news.”
“They did that with President Trump. They tried to do that with Jeff Sessions,” she tells Nysewander. “They don’t want him there because he does not give up.”
For others, it’s about not wanting to vote for a Democrat, in this case Moore’s Democratic opponent Doug Jones.
“I’m willing to vote for anybody,” a caller named Ellen says, even if it’s proven Moore had sexual contact with a minor. “I don’t care about that. Look, we lived through eight years of a sexual predator in the White House. We had Bill Clinton and we all lived through it didn’t we? Including the Democrats.”
Tony calling from Birmingham says if the stories are true, there should be more accusers.
“I have to wonder, where are all the other women over the last 40 years that he should have had some kind of sexual misconduct with? Pedophiles don’t usually change their M.O.”
The calls keep rolling in.
A few callers say the Moore story made them too uncomfortable and they’ll write in someone or just won’t vote. One says she was a Moore supporter, but it was the press conference with the fifth Moore accuser that changed her mind.
“I put myself in her shoes at that age and her statement, there’s credibility to it. And I can’t in good conscience vote for Judge Roy Moore,” she says. “He really needs to withdraw at this point.”
Most callers say they’re sticking with Moore. Consistent throughout is distrust of The Washington Post, which broke the story, and Republican leadership.
Host JT Nysewander says it’s been this intense since the Republican primary, and he expects it to remain just as heated even after the special election December 12th.
“It’s Alabama politics at its worst or best depending on how you look at it,” Nysewander says.
Plenty of fodder too for talk radio.