Republicans officials have had a range of responses since the Washington Post published a bombshell story Thursday afternoon quoting a woman alleging that Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore had attempted sexual relations with her when she was 14 and he was 32.
The story also quoted three other women who said Moore hit on them when they were between the ages of 16 and 18 and he was in his 30s.
Moore has denied the allegations, calling them a political attack and using them in his fundraising. The special election against Democrat Doug Jones takes place on Dec. 12. Moore was the heavy favorite to win, but he has become politically toxic since the Post report.
Many Republican senators attempted to keep Moore at arm’s length even before the story broke, as the former judge has a long history of discriminatory positions, including that Rep. Keith Ellison shouldn’t be allowed in Congress because he’s Muslim; the Sept. 11 attacks were potentially a punishment from God; homosexual activity should be illegal; and former President Barack Obama was not born in the United States.
The responses to the Post’s story about Moore have fallen into three distinct categories.
He should leave the race
Sen. John McCain of Arizona said shortly after the publication of the article that Moore should leave the race.
“The allegations against Roy Moore are deeply disturbing and disqualifying,” said McCain. “He should immediately step aside and allow the people of Alabama to elect a candidate they can be proud of.”
They were joined by Ohio Gov. John Kasich and 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who both took to Twitter to denounce Moore.
“I’ve long opposed Roy Moore & his divisive viewpoints,” wrote Kasich. “The actions described make him unfit for office. The GOP must not support him. He should step aside.”
“Innocent until proven guilty is for criminal convictions, not elections,” wrote Romney. “I believe Leigh Corfman. Her account is too serious to ignore. Moore is unfit for office and should step aside.”
The majority of Republican senators who have addressed the Moore controversy called the allegations disturbing and said he should leave the race if they’re true, although none specified what further proof would be needed. The Wall Street Journal spoke to three of the women quoted in the Post story and they all stood by their accounts.
“If these allegations are true, Roy Moore should step aside for all the obvious reasons,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “Very disturbing allegations.”
He was echoed by Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
“The allegations against Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore are deeply troubling,” said Gardner. “If these allegations are found to be true, Roy Moore must drop out of the Alabama special Senate election.”
Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, one of a handful of senators to endorse Moore, concurred.
“These are serious and troubling allegations,” said Cruz. “If they are true, Judge Moore should immediately withdraw. However, we need to know the truth, and Judge Moore has the right to respond to these accusations.”
The White House maintained the same position.
“Like most Americans, the president believes we cannot allow a mere allegation, in this case one from many years ago, to destroy a person’s life,” said press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. “However, the president also believes that if these allegations are true, Judge Moore will do the right thing and step aside.”
Last month Sanders stated that the White House’s position on over a dozen accusations of sexual harassment and assault against President Trump was that all the accusers were lying.
Rep. Peter King of New York took the opposite tack, saying it was Moore who needed to prove his innocence over the weekend or step down from the race.
“I would say unless he can prove his innocence,” said King during a Friday MSNBC interview, “the burden is now on him within the next day or so, I believe he has to step down. He owes it to himself, he owes it to the state and he owes it to the U.S. Senate.”
At the opposite end of the spectrum from McCain, Kasich and Romney are a number of Republican party officials from the state of Alabama. State Auditor Jim Zeigler turned to scripture.
“Zechariah was extremely old to marry Elizabeth and they became the parents of John the Baptist,” Zeigler said in an interview with the Washington Examiner. “Also take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus.”
The ages of Joseph and Mary are not mentioned in the Bible, and per scripture, God is the father of Jesus, not Joseph.
The chairman of the Republican Party in Bibb County, Ala., told the Toronto Star that he would support Moore even if he did commit a sex crime against a girl.
“I would vote for Judge Moore because I wouldn’t want to vote for Doug,” said Jerry Power. “I’m not saying I support what he did.”
Alabama state Rep. Ed Henry said that he didn’t believe the allegations, and that the women who spoke to the Post should be prosecuted.
“If they believe this man is predatory, they are guilty of allowing him to exist for 40 years,” said Henry. “I think someone should prosecute and go after them. You can’t be a victim 40 years later, in my opinion.”
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