Cameron Joseph is Talking Points Memo's senior political correspondent based in Washington, D.C. He covers Capitol Hill, the White House and the permanent campaign. Previous publications include the New York Daily News, Mashable, The Hill and National Journal. He grew up near Chicago and is an irrationally passionate Cubs fan.
The man that Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) defeated in his 2008 race told TPM Friday that one of the closest Senate races in history likely would have gone his way had Franken’s sexual harassment been public at the time.
“You’ve got to believe that photo is worth more than 312 votes,” former Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) told TPM Friday morning, highlighting the exact margin of his 2008 loss to Franken a day after newscaster Leeann Tweeden came forward to accuse Franken of sexual misconduct in 2006 — and included photo evidence.
Coleman declined to further discuss the 2008 race and the current allegations, saying the picture of Franken “speaks for itself” and that he didn’t want to “sound like sour grapes.”
But the former senator is almost certainly right that he would have remained in the Senate if the accusations against Franken had come out before the election.
Coleman lost to Franken after one of the most bitter Senate races in recent memory — and an arduous legal battle afterwards that lasted eight full months, depriving Democrats of Franken’s vote in the Senate for the busy beginning of President Obama’s presidency.
Coleman initially led Franken on election night by 726 votes, a margin that shrank to 215 votes on an official count from the Minnesota secretary of state. The disputed election results then headed to a hotly contested recount — where Franken prevailed by a scant 225 votes. Coleman fought those results in court for months, eventually conceding in late June after the Minnesota Supreme Court rejected his challenge to the results.
But if the scandal that’s currently enveloping Franken had broken then, it’s hard to see how he would have defeated Coleman almost a decade ago, a result that would have deprived Democrats of a key Senate vote years.
Franken had to apologize during that campaign for controversial jokes he’d made in previous years — including a number of rape jokes.
“The things I said and wrote sent a message to some of my friends in this room, and the people in this state, that they can’t count on me to be a champion for women and for all people of Minnesota in this campaign and in the Senate. I’m sorry for that,” he said during the 2008 Democratic-Farmer-Labor state convention.
The allegations against Franken has quickly spurred a Senate Ethics Committee investigation that has the potential to end Franken’s career. And Tweeden’s damning photo is tailor-made for a campaign ad that could have ended Franken’s chances at the Senate.
The Alabama Republican Party is officially standing by their man.
The state party put out a statement defending Roy Moore on Thursday afternoon, attacking “the media and those from afar” for meddling in Alabama’s Senate election, and encouraging voters to back him in the Dec. 12 election.
That statement comes in spite of the growing list of women who have come forward to accuse him of inappropriate sexual acts, up to nine as of Thursday afternoon, and calls from national Republicans for Moore to drop out. The accusations include Moore asking multiple teen girls on dates, sexually assaulting one of them, having a sexual encounter with another when she was 14 years old to groping another woman without her permission.
“The ALGOP Steering Committee supports Judge Roy Moore as our nominee and trusts the voters as they make the ultimate decision in this crucial race,” Alabama Republican Party Chair Terry Lathan said in a statement. “Judge Moore has vehemently denied the allegations made against him. He deserves to be presumed innocent of the accusations unless proven otherwise. He will continue to take his case straight to the people of Alabama.”
As TPM reported Thursday morning, the state party decided in a Wednesday night meeting to stand by Moore rather than disqualify his nomination. But the statement defending Moore is a step further than some state Republicans expected — especially following heavy criticism from the national party and demands that Moore drops out from lawmakers including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who opposed Moore in the primary.
Moore has steadfastly refused to drop out of the race, and has some close allies on the state party committee. While some others on the 21-person committee want him gone, many are afraid of Moore’s rabid base, as some are running for office in the state and face primaries.
“This is an effort by Mitch McConnell and his cronies to steal this election from the people of Alabama and they will not stand for it,” he said at a Thursday rally before refusing to answer reporters’ questions about whether he’d dated any teenage girls when he was in his 30s, or whether he’d inappropriately touched any of them.
According to Buzzfeed, his supporters aggressively yelled at reporters after the event for daring to ask Moore questions.
Here’s Latham’s full statement:
“The ALGOP Steering Committee supports Judge Roy Moore as our nominee and trusts the voters as they make the ultimate decision in this crucial race.”
“Judge Moore has vehemently denied the allegations made against him. He deserves to be presumed innocent of the accusations unless proven otherwise. He will continue to take his case straight to the people of Alabama.”
“There is a sharp policy contrast between Judge Moore, a conservative Republican who supports President Trump, and the liberal Democrat who will fight and thwart the agenda of our president. We trust the Alabama voters in this election to have our beloved state and nation’s best interest at heart.
“Alabamians will be the ultimate jury in this election- not the media or those from afar.”
“We are very grateful for the multitudes that have reached out to us with support and prayers. We ask God to guide us, politically and personally, with His mighty strength and wisdom. In turn, we also pray that justice and truth will prevail for all involved in this situation.”
The Alabama Republican Party decided not to disqualify Roy Moore’s Senate candidacy at a Wednesday night meeting, likely ending the GOP’s best hope to get rid of Moore before the Dec. 12 election.
After hours of tense deliberation, the 21 members of the state party’s steering committee decided not to do anything for the time being — rejecting arguments from some who wanted to pull their support from Moore as well as Moore loyalists who wanted the party to issue a public statement defending him.
That do-nothing approach means the party is still behind Moore — and has no plans to un-endorse him, the only way they could make almost certain Moore won’t become Alabama’s next senator. If they had disqualified him, under Alabama law, he’d still be on the ballot but any votes for him wouldn’t count.
That (non)decision, confirmed by TPM, comes after Alabama Republican Party Chairwoman Terry Lathan warned earlier this week that any Republicans pledging to oppose Moore or back a write-in could be thrown out of the party and denied ballot access — a major threat to the quarter of the steering committee’s members, who are running for local office next year.
It never looked likely that the group would move to ditch Moore — crossing his rabid in-state supporters could be political suicide for many on the committee, and hurt their careers. But its members’ cautious approach forecloses on the best chance for the party to rid itself of Moore, who has adamantly refused to drop out even as the list of women who accuse him of unwanted groping, sexual overtures when they were teenagers and sexual assault grew to nine people Wednesday night.
That decision comes as national Republicans led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) grow increasingly desperate in their quest to find a way out of the no-win situation, where Moore either loses and costs them a must-have Senate seat or wins and comes to Washington a toxic figure that will further damage the party brand ahead of 2018 and give McConnell regular headaches.
McConnell’s team is assessing the legal feasibility of convincing appointed Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL) to quit the race now in order to let Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) call a new special election at a later date.
But that plan seems like an even longer shot than previously discussed plans to push a write-in candidate. Strange told the Washington Examiner on Wednesday that he won’t resign and plans to finish his term. And even if McConnell could convince Strange to do otherwise, Ivey has repeatedly said she will not move the Dec. 12 election — and has also said if Strange does resign she’d just appoint a caretaker to the seat until the December election’s winner can be sworn in.
“The election date is set for Dec. 12. Were he to resign I would simply appoint somebody to fill the remaining time until we have the election on Dec. 12,” Ivey told AL.com.
And even if Ivey and Strange change their minds and go along, experts say the move may not even be constitutional.
In a bizarre Wednesday press event, Roy Moore’s embattled campaign demanded the high school yearbook of the woman who has accused him of violently sexually assaulting her.
Moore campaign chairman Bill Armistead and attorney Phillip Jauregui accused Moore’s latest accuser of lying about his sexually assaulting her when she was 16 — and want to get their hands on the yearbook the woman showed at her press conference that included a flirty note allegedly written by Moore.
“We demand that you immediately release the yearbook to a neutral custodian… so that our expert can look at it,” Jauregui said.
But neither he or Armistead offered any proof that any of the five women accusing Moore of inappropriate sexual interactions when they were teenagers — including one who says she was 14 ears old when Moore undressed her — were lying.
Both refused to take questions from reporters, and neither offered a shred of evidence that either was lying.
He also claimed that Moore had been the judge who presided over the woman’s divorce in the late 1990s, a claim that he said contradicted her claim that she’d never seen him since he assaulted her. The lawyer didn’t offer any specific evidence that Moore and the accuser had contact during the divorce case, however.
“Judge Moore has been falsely accused of something he did not do 40 years ago,” Armistead said. “We cannot just stand by idly and let false charges go without some answering.”
It’s unclear what Moore’s campaign hoped to accomplish with the abbreviated press event — not a press conference, which involves questions and answers with the media.
The only group of people with the power to force nominee Roy Moore from the Alabama Senate race is heading into a crucial meeting Wednesday afternoon with no guidance from President Trump on what to do.
The Alabama Republican Party steering committee, the only organization that could revoke Moore’s endorsement and disqualify any votes for him, meets at 4 p.m. Alabama time, 5 p.m. ET on Wednesday.
While many members had hoped for an indication from the president on whether they should force Moore out, Trump didn’t address the issue in his first media appearance on U.S. soil since four women came forward to accuse Moore of sexual misconduct when they were teenagers last Thursday — including one who said they had a sexual encounter when she was just 14 years old. A fifth woman has since come forward to say that Moore violently tried to force a relationship.
The president took no questions from reporters at the White House as he gave an extended statement on his recently completed Asia trip.
If Trump had decided to follow Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and many other Republicans to call on Moore to drop out or lose the party’s support, the members of the committee who want Moore gone would have had much more political cover to push for his removal. Now, there may not be the energy to cut Moore loose.
“I’m not sure people have the courage to throw Moore off,” one senior Alabama Republican who has talked to multiple committee members told TPM Wednesday afternoon. “If they don’t do anything my assumption is they won’t meet again.”
The meeting comes as the pressure mounts from all corners of the national party for Moore to quit the race – something he’s defiantly refused to do.
On Tuesday night, Fox News host Sean Hannity gave Moore a 24-hour ultimatum to give “a satisfactory explanation for your inconsistencies” or drop out of the race — a major reversal after defending him on-air for days after the accusations dropped. That comes after both the Republican National Committee and National Republican Senatorial Committee pulled their support.
But in Alabama, most in the GOP establishment seem very wary of pulling Moore’s support and enraging his supporters.
“I’d be real surprised if the president comes out one way or the other. He loves Alabama, Alabama loves him. Roy Moore won the election fair and square,” Perry Hooper, Trump’s Alabama campaign chairman, told TPM shortly before Trump spoke. “I think they keep everything as is, and if that’s the case that means they’re supporting the nominee. They don’t have to have any statement, they can just say he’s the nominee, period.”
Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), who told TPM Tuesday that he wanted the state party to yank its endorsement of Moore, said Wednesday that he’d “vote Republican — but I’ll probably write in a good candidate,” and wouldn’t vote for Moore.
But he was skeptical how much impact President Trump’s comments might have.
“He’d have to consider would it make any difference this late? Because if he weighed in, could we get another candidate? The problem is, could you substitute anybody, see?” he said.
Ahead of the meeting, Moore allies in the state sought to put added pressure on the state party to come out in favor of Moore, with two local organizations issuing statements of support for their candidate. Both local organizations, the Shelby County Republicans and the Fifth District Republicans, are run by people close to Moore’s two most vocal backers on the state steering committee.
Moore remains stubbornly defiant, attacking McConnell, the media and his female accusers.
The Republicans and Democrats who did everything they could to stop Donald Trump and elect Hillary Clinton are the very same people who are now trying to take us down with lies and smears. #ALSEN
And to add extra pressure to the state GOP, Moore’s campaign announced that it’ll be holding a press conference with Moore’s attorney in front of the Alabama Republican Party headquarters, where the meeting will take place, at the same time the meeting begins.
One of Alabama’s most powerful Republicans said Tuesday that the state GOP should pull its nomination of Senate candidate Roy Moore.
“If they pull him then they have another candidate. I said I’d like to see another candidate,” Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) told TPM when pressed on whether the state party should un-endorse Moore and back a write-in candidate.
That’s a step farther than Shelby had previously been willing to go. On Monday he’d told TPM it was a decision for state steering committee, which plans to meet later this week to determine Moore’s fate.
Shelby isn’t beloved by many in the Alabama Republican Party’s conservative wing. He had to ward off a primary challenge last election cycle, and some Moore supporters were furious he backed Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL) over Moore in this year’s primary. But he’s one of the few left in the state party with major sway, and is by far the highest profile Alabama Republican to publicly say the party should cut Moore loose. His support for doing so could help nervous Republicans on the committee to stand up and fight to have him removed against the members on the committee who want to stick by Moore.
Shelby’s comments come after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) publicly floated the idea that Attorney General Jeff Sessions might come back to run for his old seat as he talked up a write-in option. Sessions may be the only Republican in the state with enough goodwill on the right to cobble together a coalition for a write-in campaign, but sources close to him told TPM on Monday that he’s been telling Alabama Republicans he’s not interested in leaving the Department of Justice to return to the Senate.
Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore’s Democratic opponent is taking to the airwaves to hit him for his burgeoning sex scandal.
Democrat Doug Jones has a new ad out featuring self-described Republicans who say they can’t vote for Moore, alluding throughout the ad to the on-record accusations from five women that Moore pursued sexual encounters with them, including one who was just 14 at the time.
The ad has voters — four Republicans and three Democrats — alluding to the “awful” story before pledging to vote for Jones.
“You read the story and it just shakes you,” one Alabamian says in the ad.
“Don’t decency and integrity matter anymore?” another asks.
“I’m a Republican, but Roy Moore – no way,” a third says.
Moore has aggressively refused to drop out while accusing the women of lying and describing a conspiracy against him from establishment Republicans, Democrats and the media. That’s true even after a fifth woman stepped forward Monday to accuse him of sexually attacking her when she was just 16 years old.
Jones is looking to score what would be a huge upset win for a Democrat in Alabama by running against Moore’s temperament and fitness for office — an argument that has been given a huge boost by the burgeoning scandal.
Republicans still hold out hope they can force Moore from the race and back a write-in candidate, and the local Republicans in charge of whether they’ll cut Moore loose have scheduled a meeting for later this week to decide whether or not to stand by him.
Jones also released a web video featuring Republican Steve Duncan, who ran for local office a few years back and says he’s backing Jones.
“Look in the mirror, check your heart, check your soul,” Duncan says in the spot. Before you pull the lever, remember, do you want someone like Roy Moore? Who’s gonna continue the divisiveness — or how about Doug Jones — who just might bring unity to this country and to this state. I choose Doug Jones. Yep, I’m another Republican. I’m Steve Duncan, I want to be on the right side of history. That’s why I’m voting for Doug Jones.”
Here’s the TV ad’s full script:
Supporter 1: I’m a lifelong Republican, but I just can’t do it.
Supporter 2: I can’t vote for Roy Moore.
Supporter 3: He’s already been removed from office twice.
Supporter 4: This time it’s even worse.
Supporter 5: You read the story and it just shakes you.
Supporter 6: Just awful.
Supporter 7: I just don’t trust him.
Supporter 3: He’s too divisive.
Supporter 5: Don’t decency and integrity matter anymore.
Supporter 4: I’m a Republican, but Roy Moore – no way.
Supporter 1: I’m for Doug Jones.
Supporter 2: I’m another Republican for Doug Jones.
As national Republicans ramp up the pressure to force Roy Moore to drop his Alabama Senate campaign, the small group of local GOP power players who will ultimately determine Moore’s political fate are taking reluctant steps towards deciding whether to cut him loose.
The 21 members of Alabama’s Republican Party central steering committee are the only ones who can pull Roy Moore’s nomination and potentially block his path to the Senate. After days of mounting allegations that their Senate nominee had sexual contact with teenage girls while he was in his 30s, two Alabama GOP sources tell TPM they’ve finally decided to hold a meeting later this week to hash out whether they can stand by his side.
“We are still weighing the evidence, but realize some decision or statement must come from the state party soon,” said one Alabama Republican.
Most members of the committee have so far stayed silent, worried about fury from Moore backers if they reject him and damage to their own political careers no matter what they do.
But as the allegations pile up against their nominee, they’re creeping towards making a decision on whether to stand by Moore or pull the party nomination and back a possible write-in campaign, a move which further dims their hopes of holding the seat.
Under state law, it is too late to remove Moore’s name from the ballot or replace him with another candidate. If his nomination is withdrawn but he still gets the most votes in the Dec. 12 election against Democratic nominee Doug Jones, it’s unclear what happens. Some interpret the law as saying the election would be null and void and the governor would need to call a new one, while others say the second-place finisher would be declared the winner, whether that’s Jones or a write-in. Lawsuits would be likely.
The committee’s decision to hold a meeting and call came Monday afternoon, shortly after a fifth woman came forward to say Moore pursued her when she was a teenager. Beverly Young Nelson said that Moore violently tried to force her to have sex with him, initially refusing to let her exit his car and leaving bruises on her neck from where he tried to pull her head to his crotch. Moore called the latest allegations “absolutely false.”
National Republicans moved swiftly against Moore on Monday, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) unequivocally calling on Moore to quit the race and National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Cory Gardner (R-CO) saying the Senate should vote to expel Moore if he does win his election.
“The women looked believable and the stories looked believable,” Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) told reporters Monday, calling the accusations “very disturbing” and repeating his suggestion that Moore should drop out of the race.
Shelby and other Republicans buzzed about possible write-in candidates. But two of their most obvious options seemed to take themselves out of the running on Monday.
Two sources close to Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he’s told Alabama Republicans he’s “not interested” in returning to the Senate seat he gave up to become attorney general. Session’s appointed successor, Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL), who lost to Moore in the GOP primary, told reporters Monday that it’s “highly unlikely” that he will run.
Alabama Republicans said there’s almost no chance of Moore stepping aside, even if more accusers come forward — and even if President Trump himself calls for Moore to drop out in the coming days. Moore is famously stubborn, has long clashed with establishment Republicans in the state (including some on the steering committee) and has twice been forcibly removed from the state Supreme Court for refusing to follow the rule of law.
“It doesn’t matter what the party does. It doesn’t make a difference. He’s not dropping out, look at his history. He’s been forcibly been removed from office twice. He wants to be martyred,” another senior Alabama Republican told TPM.
Despite the seriousness of the allegations against Moore, state Republicans face a no-win situation politically. They can yank a nomination Moore won fair and square in the primary in spite of heavy opposition from the party establishment, infuriating his die-hard backers who hold significant sway in the state party and face severe blowback and accusations that they’re rigging the game. Or they can stand by a candidate whose toxicity is damaging both the state and national Republican Party and causing deep embarrassment for the state of Alabama.
The party is split heading into the high-stakes meeting. Some have finally had it with Moore, worry about more allegations, and want to see him drop out of the race immediately or lose the state party nomination. Others are furious at what they see as a concerted effort by establishment Republicans, Democrats and the media to destroy Moore’s life along with his political career.
“The part I can’t understand and don’t think has even registered with too many people is what part of the word ‘accusation’ do you not understand?” Republican National Committeeman Paul Reynolds, a member of the state steering committee, told TPM. “To the people who are so up in arms, these are accusations until there is hard, fast proof.”
“It’s just politics. Donald Trump had to go through the same thing,” Perry Hooper, the Trump campaign’s chairman in Alabama, who’s not on the committee, told TPM.
Others privately disagree — some of them vehemently — but the pro-Moore voices are louder and more aggressive.
“I’ve heard they’re going to have a call this week. But let’s be honest: I don’t see them doing anything,” an Alabama Republican who dislikes Moore and has talked to a number of people on the steering committee told TPM.
“The people who are for Moore are vocal and totally off the ranch. And the other people have lives, they work and are committed to the Republican Party, and they always supported Republican candidates,” that Republican continued. “The easiest thing for human beings is to do nothing and let the people of Alabama decide.”
Many on the committee have their own political careers to worry about. Roughly a quarter of the committee’s members are running for public office next year and face competitive primaries where they need backing from Moore’s supporters. Others depend on GOP contracts for their livelihood, or on relationships built through the state party for company business.
Further complicating the situation is the current disarray of the state party, which has been wracked by multiple scandals. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) assumed office just months ago after former Gov. Robert Bentley (R) was forced to resign under an ethics cloud. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the state’s most powerful Republican, can’t get publicly involved because of his current position. Strange is a lame duck after losing to Moore in the primary. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) is the only elder statesman left in the party — and he has little sway and even less trust with the state’s hardline conservatives, who challenged him in a primary just two years ago and were furious he backed Strange over Moore.
Alabama Republican Party Chairwoman Terry Lathan didn’t answer multiple phone calls requesting comment, while party Executive Director Harold Sachs refused to discuss the party’s approach to Moore when reached by TPM. Lathan told AL.com Monday that it was “very unlikely” Moore would lose the party’s endorsement.
But the state’s smart Republicans know something must be done — even if they don’t want to be the ones to do it.
“All those people are elected and they’ve got to look at it. He’s got to make his own decision,” Shelby told TPM when asked what he thought the steering committee should do. “But I tell you, it’s drip by drip, cut by cut. It doesn’t look good.”
An Alabama woman on Monday said Senate candidate Roy Moore sexually assaulted her when she was a teenager, the fifth woman to accuse Moore of making improper sexual advances on her in recent days.
Beverly Young Nelson said a during press conference with attorney Gloria Allred that the alleged assault occurred when she was 16 years old.
“Mr. Moore attacked me when I was a child. I did nothing to deserve this sexual attack. I was frightened by his position, by his power,” Nelson said.
Nelson said Moore offered her a ride home from work, then attempted to force her to have sex with him, leaving bruises on her neck as she struggled to free herself and refusing to stop when she asked.
“I tried to open my car door to leave, but he reached over and he locked it so I could not get out. I tried fighting him off while yelling at him to stop. But instead of stopping, he began squeezing my neck, attempting to force my head onto his crotch. I continued to struggle. I was determined that I was not going to allow him to force me to have sex with him,” Nelson said. “I was terrified. He was also trying to pull my shirt off. I thought that he was going to rape me.”
Beverly Nelson details her allegations against Roy Moore: "Mr. Moore reached over and began groping me and putting his hands on my breasts." pic.twitter.com/Utm1diconW
Moore eventually stopped, Nelson said, and warned her no one would believe her if she shared her story.
“He said, ‘you’re just a child,’ and he said, ‘I am the district attorney of Etowah County, and if you tell anyone about this, no one will ever believe you,'” she said.
Allred showed a page from the woman’s high school yearbook she said Moore had signed with a flirtatious note.
“She was sexually assaulted by Roy Moore,” Allred said, calling for the Senate Judiciary Committee to hold a hearing on the matter and subpoenaing Moore to testify.
Nelson is the fifth woman to accuse Moore of having made sexual advances on her when she was a teenager — including one who was 14 at the time.
But Moore has remained defiant.
“Gloria Allred is a sensationalist leading a witch hunt, and she is only around to create a spectacle. Allred was the attorney who claims credit for giving us Roe v. Wade which has resulted in the murder of tens of millions of unborn babies,” Moore campaign chairman Bill Armistead said in a statement released before Allred’s press conference began. “We’ve said this before and we’ll say it again: Judge Moore is an innocent man and has never had any sexual misconduct with anyone.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) called for Moore to exit the race Monday morning, declaring he believed Moore’s accusers and talking about a possible write-in campaign.
National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Cory Gardner (R-CO) went a step further immediately after Nelson’s press conference, calling for a vote to expel Moore from the Senate if he wins.
“I believe the individuals speaking out against Roy Moore spoke with courage and truth, proving he is unfit to serve in the United States Senate and he should not run for office. If he refuses to withdraw and wins, the Senate should vote to expel him, because he does not meet the ethical and moral requirements of the United States Senate,” Gardner said.
National Republicans can’t do anything to force Moore out of the race, however. There’s no way to remove him from the ballot itself. The state Republican Party can decertify its endorsement, disqualifying him as a candidate and backing a write-in candidate to run, but that’d take a vote from local party leaders to do so.
It would take 67 votes to expel Moore from the Senate if he does win the Dec. 12 election. Initial polls after the first allegations surfaced on Thursday showed Moore in a competitive race with Democrat Doug Jones in deep-red Alabama, and the latest allegations could further damage his campaign.
A number of top Alabama Republicans were quick to defend Senate candidate Roy Moore (R) following allegations that he’d sought sexual relationships with multiple teenagers — and quick to attack Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) for throwing Moore under the bus.
McConnell said Moore “must step aside” if the Washington Post’s story was true that Moore, then 32, initiated a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old girl in 1979. It was a line echoed by most senators.
That infuriated a number of Republicans back in Alabama, many of whom defended Moore’s character and suggested the women were likely lying.
“I think it’s just a bunch of bull,” Perry Hooper Jr., President Trump’s Alabama state chairman, told TPM. “Mitch McConnell should know better to make a statement like he made unless he gets all the answers. We’re right in the political zone right now, the election’s December 12th. This is the same campaign issue the left ran against Donald Trump on, they’re doing the same thing against Roy Moore.”
Hooper, who’d backed Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL) over Moore in the primary, called the allegations “ludicrous” and “gutter politics” unless they could be proven.
“The same thing went on when President Trump ran for office, there was about 15 ladies who ran to the press and said the same thing,” he said.
When asked how the claims could be proven, he suggested the woman take a polygraph.
“Maybe she just needs to take a polygraph test. And the people who are pushing her, they need to take the same test too to see if they’re telling the truth,” he said.
Alabama State Rep. Ed Henry (R), Trump’s other Alabama campaign co-chairman, was even harsher.
“I believe it is very opportunistic and they are just looking for their chance to get on some liberal talk show. I’m sure they’ve probably been offered money by entities that surround the Clintons and that side of the world. We know they will pay to dirty anyone’s name that’s in their way. If you believe for a second that any of these are true then shame on these women for not coming forward in the last 30 years, it’s not like this guy hasn’t been in the limelight for decades. I call B.S. myself. I think it’s all lies and fabrication,” Henry told TPM.
When asked about McConnell’s comments, he erupted.
“Mitch McConnell, and you can quote me on this, is a dumbass, a coward, a liar himself and exactly what’s wrong with Washington, D.C. He would love for Roy Moore not to be in Washington, he’d much rather have a Democrat. Mitch McConnell is scum,” he said, putting the chances at “zero” that the state party would un-endorse Moore.
And he said he’d need photographic evidence to believe the women.
“They got some pictures? That’ll do,” he said. “You can’t sit on something like this for thirty-something years with a man as in the spotlight as Roy Moore and all of a sudden three weeks before a senatorial primary all of a sudden these three or four women are going to talk about something in 1979? I call bull. It’s as fabricated as the day is long.”
Moore is vehemently denying the charges. And while Republicans could pull the plug on his campaign by un-endorsing him and backing a write-in campaign, as long as the state Republican Party stands by him, he’ll remain the GOP candidate.
Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill (R) also dismissed the allegations.
“These allegations have been made against Judge Moore but at this time that’s all they are, they’re allegations. I know Judge Moore to be a man of integrity and character,” he told TPM. “It’s very interesting to me and very odd that these charges have just now been introduced… People will say and do anything, and you and I both know they will.”
And he wasn’t thrilled with McConnell’s comment.
“It’s always interesting to me when people comment on things before all the facts are available for people to evaluate. I try not to make a rash decision or rash comments about topics that I don’t have all the facts on and I don’t have all the facts on this and I don’t know if Sen. McConnell has all the facts or not,” he said.
They’re not the only ones defending Moore. According to the Montgomery Advertiser, Alabama state Auditor Jim Zeigler (R) said even if the report was true, it wouldn’t be a big deal.
Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler, a Moore backer: "Even if you accept the Washington Post’s report as being completely true, it’s much ado about very little. " #ALSEN#alpolitics
“There is nothing to see here,” he said. “The allegations are that a man in his early 30s dated teenage girls. Even the Washington Post report says that he never had sexual intercourse with any of the girls and never attempted sexual intercourse.”
Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) said Moore “wouldn’t belong in the Senate” if the allegations were true, and Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) has so far refused to endorse Moore. But few other Alabama Republicans look ready to break with Moore immediately over the allegations — and if the state GOP refuses to abandon him, he’s likely to stay the GOP nominee and still have a real shot at the U.S. Senate.