President Donald Trump fumed at his daughter Ivanka Trump’s criticism of Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, the New York Times reported Saturday, citing three unnamed staff members who heard his reaction. Ivanka Trump had said in an interview, when asked about Moore, that “there’s a special place in hell for people who prey on children.”
“Do you believe this?” Trump told several aides “in the hours after” Ivanka Trump’s comments, the Times reported. The comments were later included in an ad by Moore’s Democratic opponent, Doug Jones.
Moore has been accused by several women of pursuing relationships with them when they were teenagers and he was a grown man. One woman, Leigh Corfman, told the Washington Post in a Nov. 9 article that Moore attempted to initiate sexual contact with her when she was 14. Beverly Young Nelson alleged in a press conference days later that Moore attempted to rape her when she was 16. Moore has denied all wrongdoing.
The White House’s message on the race has changed day-to-day. Initially following the Post’s reporting, the White House said in a statement that Moore should step aside from the race if Corfman’s allegations were true. In subsequent days, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders refused to engage with further questions about Moore, saying Alabama voters should choose their next senator, and Trump did not answer shouted questions about the race.
On Tuesday, Trump said “We don’t need a liberal Democrat in that seat,” indicating he stood by an endorsement of Moore made before the revelations about him pursuing teenagers.
White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said a day prior that a vote for Jones would mean a vote against Trump’s promised tax cuts — an implicit endorsement that is now the subject of a Hatch Act investigation. The law forbids officials from using their government positions to boost candidates for office.
The Times also reported Saturday, without citing a specific source for the claim, that Trump had suggested to a senator earlier this year — and to an adviser more recently — that the so-called “Access Hollywood” tape “was not authentic.”
In the tape, Trump is heard bragging that he can kiss and grab women without their permission because he is famous. The Times noted that Trump verified the accuracy of the tape and apologized for his recorded comments when they were first unearthed in October 2016.