- Mark Wilson/Getty Images
- Republicans are split over what should happen to GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore after Thursday’s revelations about sexual misconduct allegations.
- Some want him to quit immediately, others are saying he should step aside “if” the accusation that Moore sexually abused a teenager almost 40 years ago is true, and a third camp is defending Moore.
Three camps are emerging in the Republican Party regarding what it believes should happen to Alabama’s Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore after The Washington Post reported Thursday that he initiated a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old girl when he was 32.
Moore has vehemently denied the allegations made against him in The Post. Multiple women told the publication that Moore pursued relationships with them while he was in his 30s and they were teens, and one woman described a sexual encounter she had with Moore when she was 14. He has shown no signs that he will drop out of the Senate race with just a month left before the election.
That, in turn, has led to a major battle over whether Moore should stay in the race. It’s the latest such skirmish to show the fault lines in the longstanding intraparty feud.
But unlike past divisions, this one has split into three distinct groups rather than two.
The first of the three camps is saying Moore should drop out “if” the allegations are true
Almost immediately after The Post published its investigation, Republican senators were asked about whether they still supported Moore or thought he should stay in the race.
And nearly every Republican senator said he should leave the race “if” the allegations were true.
The problem with that stance is that the “if true” qualifier left the door open to speculation over how much additional proof would be possible to obtain for instances that occurred decades back. The only obvious standard for this, aside from the women coming forward on the record with the allegations, would be for Moore to admit he committed the acts laid out in The Post.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other top Republicans qualified their statements by saying he should drop out if the allegations were true.
“It’s devastating,” Republican Sen. David Perdue of Georgia, a top congressional ally of President Donald Trump, told a reporter Thursday. “I think if those allegations are true, he should step aside. I mean, I’m sorry but this is untenable – if they’re true. I have no facts, I just saw the story. But it’s very serious.”
“These are serious and troubling allegations,” Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who endorsed Moore, said in a statement. “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”
President Donald Trump decided to join with the Republican senators in the “if true” camp.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters on the president’s trip to Asia that Moore “will do the right thing and step aside” if the allegations against him are true.
“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,” she said. “However, the president also believes that if these allegations are true, Judge Moore will do the right thing and step aside.”
It should be noted that both Trump and Sanders have accused the dozen women who claimed last year that the president sexually harassed them of lying.
The second camp is actively backing Moore despite the allegations
A number of prominent Alabama Republicans and members of the insurgent right have taken to bashing The Post or the accusers, or suggesting that the revelations were made with a political motive.
Some also suggested that the allegations are not a big deal even if true.
Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon pointed to The Washington Post as having been the outlet to publish both the Moore allegations and Trump’s “Access Hollywood” tape last fall, suggesting there is a political motive at play.
Speaking at the “Taking On The Establishment” fundraiser in New Hampshire Thursday, Bannon raised doubt about the accusations, saying it was the “politics of self-destruction.” He pointed to The Post, attacking its credibility.
“But it’s interesting,” Bannon said in a recording obtained by CBS News. “The Bezos-Amazon-Washington Post that dropped that dime on Donald Trump, is the same Bezos-Amazon-Washington Post that dropped the dime this afternoon on Judge Roy Moore.”
“Now is that a coincidence,” Bannon continued. “That’s what I mean when I say opposition party, right?”
Daniel Dale, a reporter with the Toronto Star, contacted dozens of Republican state officials in Alabama after the Moore story went live. Those who returned his inquiries defended Moore from the accusations.
“It was 40 years ago,” Alabama’s Marion County Republican Party chair, David Hall, told Dale. “I really don’t see the relevance of it. He was 32. She was supposedly 14. She’s not saying that anything happened other than they kissed.”
“It does not really surprise me,” John Skipper, the chair of Alabama’s Mobile County Republican Party, reportedly said. “I think it is a typical Democratic – Democrat – ploy to discredit Judge Moore, a sincere, honest, trustworthy individual.”
Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler said the report was “much ado about nothing,” even if true.
“The allegations are that a man in his early 30s dated teenage girls,” Zeigler told The Washington Examiner. “Even the Washington Post report says that he never had sexual intercourse with any of the girls and never attempted sexual intercourse.”
Zeigler even compared Moore’s alleged actions to biblical figures.
“Take the Bible. Zachariah and Elizabeth for instance. Zachariah was extremely old to marry Elizabeth and they became the parents of John the Baptist,” Zeigler told The Examiner. “Also take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus.”
“There’s just nothing immoral or illegal here,” Zeigler said. “Maybe just a little bit unusual.”
The final camp isn’t qualifying their statements with “if true” – they just want Moore out
A handful of Republican politicians aren’t worrying about qualifying their statements with “if true.” They are simply calling for Moore to drop out immediately.
“Innocent until proven guilty is for criminal convictions, not elections. I believe Leigh Corfman,” 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney tweeted. “Her account is too serious to ignore. Moore is unfit for office and should step aside.”
Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the 2008 GOP presidential nominee, was the first major Republican politician to call for Moore to quit the race immediately.
“The allegations against Roy Moore are deeply disturbing and disqualifying,” he said in a statement. “He should immediately step aside and allow the people of Alabama to elect a candidate they can be proud of.”
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, often a critic of Trump, joined the camp as well.
“I’ve long opposed Roy Moore & his divisive viewpoints,” he tweeted. “The actions described make him unfit for office. The GOP must not support him. He should step aside.”