Republican Roy Moore, an evangelical Christian running for an Alabama senate seat, has been accused by four women of making sexual and romantic advances toward them when they were in their teens and he in his early thirties, reports the Washington Post. One woman said he sexually propositioned her when she was just 14 (he was 32).
Moore initially dismissed the accusations as a “baseless political attack.” Despite Roy’s own shaky defense when he spoke with Sean Hannity on Fox News radio—he said he doesn’t “generally” remember dating women as young as the accusers, for instance, but then claimed he always had their parents’ permission when he did—many in his party have been supportive. Today (Nov. 11), when Moore appeared at a GOP meeting in Birmingham for the first time since the allegations surfaced, he was met with cheers and applause.
This may have to do with the fact that the Republican party won’t be able to replace Moore on the ballot in time for the election. John Merrill, Alabama’s Republican secretary of state confirmed that Moore “will be the candidate on the ballot with this election cycle remaining on the schedule it’s currently on.”
However, an increasing number of Republican senators and members of the party are calling for Moore to step aside anyway, either suggesting he be replaced by his primary opponent, or even that losing the election might have better long-term consequences for Republicans than electing Moore.
Barbara Comstock and Carlos Curbelo, Republicans running in Virginia and Florida respectively, have also called for Moore to leave the race. Another option, suggested by Adam Kinzinger, Republican senator from Illinois, would be to expel Moore from senate even if he were elected.
But many—including prominent evangelical Christian representatives—have stood by Moore.
Like Moore, some have rejected the accusations (paywall) as a smear campaign.
John Skipper of the Mobile County Republican Party called them “total contrived media garbage.”
Brett Doster, Moore’s advisor, referred to the allegations as a “a fabricated November surprise.”
Jim Zeigler, Alabama’s state auditor, appeared to not see the cause for concern. “Single man, early 30s, never been married, dating teenage girls. Never been married and he liked younger girls,” he said. Referring to the Washington Post story, he said Moore “never had sexual intercourse with any of them.”
Steve Bannon, former advisor to the president, blamed the media for surfacing the allegations, and said he’d stand by Moore until further evidence of his guilt was found.
Alabama Republican strategist Jonathan Gray claimed state pride. ”[Alabamians] don’t take kindly to people from outside our state coming down here and telling us what we should do,” he said.
Many Republicans said that Moore should step down from the Senate race and that the allegations were troubling—”if true.” Washington isn’t taking notes from Hollywood, where multiple allegations against Harvey Weinstein, Louis C.K., and others have resulted in quick shake ups.
Mike Pence, for instance, the New York Times reports (paywall), “found the allegations in the story disturbing and believes, if true, this would disqualify anyone from serving in office.”
Donald Trump, himself not a stranger of sexual misconduct accusations, believes “that if these allegations are true, Judge Moore will do the right thing and step aside,” according to White House press secretary Sarah Sanders.
John Cornyn, Republican senator from Texas, said that “if these allegations are true, his candidacy is not sustainable.”
Lisa Murkowski, Republican senator from Alaska, noted that “if in fact what I just read is true, he needs to get out of this race immediately.”
Kay Ivey, governor of Alabama, called the allegations “deeply disturbing,” but said that she’d wait for “more facts.”
A few Republicans went even further, saying they would support Moore even if the allegations turned out to be true.
Alabama’s Geneva county GOP chairman Riley Seibenhener said that “other than being with an underage person [Moore] didn’t really force himself,” and though that’s bad, supporting him is a better choice than asking him to withdraw.
Alabama’s Bib county Republican chairman Jerry Pow said he’d vote for Moore even if the allegations turned out to be true. “I would vote for Judge Moore because I wouldn’t want to vote for [his opponent] Doug [Jones],” he said. “I’m not saying I support what he did.”
Perhaps most creatively, Alabama auditor Jim Zeigler put Moore’s behavior in a biblical context: “Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus,” he said. “There’s just nothing immoral or illegal here. Maybe just a little bit unusual.”