Amid allegations that Alabama Senate frontrunner Roy Moore initiated a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old girl when he was 32, sitting Republican senators are saying Moore should “step aside” — if the reports are true.
“If these allegations are true, he must step aside,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said.
The sentiment was echoed by many.
- “If that’s true, he wouldn’t belong in the Senate,” Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) told reporters.
- “If they’re accurate, he should step aside,” Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) said.
- Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) said it was “very troubling. I think if what we read is true, and people are on the record so I assume it is, then he should step aside. I think it’d be best for him, best for the state.”
- Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) called the report “deeply disturbing,” adding that he thinks “the next steps are up to the governor and the people of Alabama.”
- Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) said, “The Post’s story is appalling and heartbreaking. If there’s an ounce of truth to any of this, Roy Moore has no place in public life and ought to drop out immediately. Alabamians should start thinking about who they’ll write in but it’s obvious that conservatives deserve better than this.”
- Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) called for Moore to step aside immediately: “The allegations against Roy Moore are deeply disturbing and disqualifying. He should immediately step aside and allow the people of Alabama to elect a candidate they can be proud of.”
The Washington Post report included a first-person account from Leigh Corfman, who said Moore engaged her in sexual acts when she was a child, as well as accounts from three women other saying Moore, while in his 30s, pursued them when they were teenagers. Moore, who was in Washington only last week to visit the Senate and attend fundraisers with Republican senators, preempted the Washington Post report by denying the allegations to the far-right media outlet Breitbart.
In a statement, Moore called the report “completely false” and “a desperate political attack by the National Democrat Party and the Washington Post on this campaign.”
The former Alabama Supreme Court judge — who has questioned Rep. Keith Ellison’s (D-MN) standing in government for being a Muslim, said he believes homosexuality should be illegal, and has twice been removed from his seat on Alabama’s top court — has always had a tepid relationship with the establishment Republicans, but until now, they’ve tolerated him.
Many of them endorsed his primary opponent, sitting Sen. Luther Strange, and have since been willing to accept Moore for the sake of strengthening the Republican majority in the chamber.
While almost all Republican senators couched their disavowals with “if this is true,” it’s clear that the party is willing to break with the elected frontrunner.
Until now the GOP was tolerating Moore. Now they’re reasserting their support for Strange.
In wake of the allegations, Republican senators are turning back to Strange — floating the possibility of him running as a write-in candidate in the general election in December.
“Luther Strange is a good senator, and he’s my friend and I support him. I don’t know what he’s going to do, but we’ll see what develops,” Shelby told reporters.
Strange, who was appointed to sit in now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s seat, handily lost the Republican primary in Alabama earlier this year. It was an incredible upset for the establishment Republican Party that threw its entire financial weight, and an endorsement from President Donald Trump, behind him. The president of the Senate Leadership Fund, the Super PAC closely aligned with Republican senate leadership, Steven Law, said “if there’s even a shred of evidence to these accusations, Gov. Ivey and the Alabama Republican Party need to do everything in their power to remove Judge Moore from the ballot. There is no place in our party for sexual predators.”
Since Moore’s primary win, Republicans have been cautious in their commentary. Unlike Strange, who sided closely with Republican leadership and the president, Moore is less likely to be a reliable vote for Republican Party. He campaigned on being a thorn in the Republican Party’s side, and his affinity for offensive far-right rhetoric has forced lawmakers into a corner.
As Jeff Stein wrote for Vox, in the past, Moore has referred to the Christian God as “the only source of our law, liberty and government,” and said that the First Amendment did not apply to Muslims because it was based on Jesus’s words.
Still, many supported him in the name of party, saying they don’t agree with what he has said. Just last week, Shelby was in support of Moore: “He’s the nominee. I’m a Republican. I support the party,” Sen. Shelby said.
Others have just avoided weighing in on the race altogether. This certainly makes their positions easier.
“I endorsed Luther,” Portman said. “I haven’t endorsed Roy Moore.”
Moore is slated to face Democrat Doug Jones, who has been consistently trailing behind the Republican nominee by double digits, on December 12 in the general. So far it seems like the Alabama GOP is standing by Moore, questioning the timing of this report.