Editor’s note: An abridged version of this column appeared earlier on the Post’s Opinion Zone blog .
Apparently, there is no more moral test for political candidates … There is only hypocrisy.
That’s about the only conclusion you can come to in the wake of the mounting sexual assault allegations against former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, the conservative Republican firebrand who looks fill an Alabama seat in the U.S. Senate.
For those of you who’ve been busy binge-watching Netflix’s “Stranger Things 2” or traveling abroad like President Donald J. Trump, The Washington Post published an explosive report on Nov. 9 in which four women say Moore pursued them sexually or romantically when they were in their teens — allegations corroborated by about 30 witnesses. The youngest accuser, Leigh Corfman, said she was 14 and Moore was 32 when he sexually touched her.
Those creepy allegations were followed last week by at least five others, but the ever-defiant Moore has repeatedly denied the accusations and is staying in the race.
As expected, the initial Washington Post story touched off an avalanche of condemnation from Democrats. But more importantly, dozens of Republicans — including Marco Rubio of Florida — have also offered calls for Moore to drop out of the Senate race, “If the allegations turn out to be true.”
Well, at least in Corfman’s case, her stepfather has corroborated her story. And Mike Ortiz, an ex-boyfriend of Corfman told CNN that she relayed the story to him when they dated for about two years around 2009. Corfman’s description to the Post fits what she told him to a tee, he said.
“But I believed her when she told me and I still believe her,” he said on CNN. “She wouldn’t lie about something like that.”
Where’s the new ‘Moral Majority’?
What’s been eye-opening for many observers is hearing Bible-thumping, morality preaching evangelicals in Alabama imply just the opposite. There was a time when the Moral Majority-led Christian right wing of the Republican Party would never countenance such a thing. Suffering such fools was left to those immoral liberal Democrats … think Bill Clinton.
But Moore, unlike Clinton, is an accused child molester.
Let that sink in for a minute. Moore, in his 30s, allegedly preyed on teen-aged girls … at the mall … at their school.
Yet these same evangelicals who routinely castigated liberals for the slightest moral failing are checking their moral compasses at the door for Moore.
A fifth woman, Beverly Young Nelson, came forward on Monday with detail that made your skin crawl about an encounter with Moore when she was 16 years old.
“I was not going to allow him to force me to have sex with him,” Nelson said through tears at a press conference. “I was terrified. I thought he was going to rape me. At some point, he gave up.”
By Wednesday, Moore’s campaign to discredit Nelson, suggesting that what looks like his signature on her high school yearbook is a forgery. Moore also disputed Nelson’s statement that she’d had no contact with him since the alleged assault took place in 1977 in Gadsden, Alabama.
Less than two hours after Moore’s attorney, Phillip L. Jauregui Jr., demanded that Nelson and Allred give the yearbook to a neutral custodian so that a handwriting expert could examine it, The Washington Post reported on another two women who described unwanted overtures by Moore at Alabama mall. And a third woman accused Moore of groping her in his office in 1991, after he was married.
Even Fox News, where conservatives typically run for cover in these times, hasn’t been as comforting.
Sean Hannity, who interviewed Moore the previous week, issued an ultimatum on Tuesday giving Moore 24 hours to clear up “inconsistencies” in his denials. After receiving Moore’s letter calling the allegations a smear, Hannity said on his show Wednesday night that voters needed time to make an informed decision on whether they were true, even if that means Republican Gov. Kay Ivey might need to postpone the election.
“The people of Alabama deserve to have a fair choice, especially in light of the new allegations tonight,” Hannity said.
McConnell: ‘I believe the women’
Small wonder Republicans are scrambling ahead of the Dec. 12 special Senate election between Moore and Democrat Doug Jones, with the deadline for replacing a candidate on the ballot well past. Some polls now have Jones with a double-digit lead and outspending Moore 11-to-1 on TV; putting the GOP’s already tenuous 52-48 Senate majority in further jeopardy on big votes like tax reform.
Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell has had enough. The Kentucky conservative is now calling for Moore to drop out of the race, after saying “I “believe the women.” Senators have publicly rescinded their endorsements, and the Republican’s senatorial campaign committee has yanked its funding. And on Thursday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said Moore “should get out” of the race.
Even those recriminations, however, smack more of political calculus than moral turpitude.
Last weekend, a former prosecutor who once worked alongside Moore in the early 1980s told CNN it was “common knowledge” at the time that Moore dated high school girls.
“… Everyone we knew thought it was weird,” former deputy district attorney Teresa Jones told CNN in comments aired Nov. 11. “We wondered why someone his age would hang out at high school football games and the mall … but you really wouldn’t say anything to someone like that.”
RELATED: NRSC poll: Moore trails Jones by 12
Still, Moore is unwavering.
“To think grown women would wait 40 years before a general election to bring charges is unbelievable,” he said at an event in Alabama last weekend. He later added, “Isn’t it strange after 40 years of constant investigation, that people have waited four weeks before a general election to bring their complaint? That’s not a coincidence.”
I agree. This is the kind of stuff that doesn’t usually come out unless someone is running for office. The bigger the office, the more stuff that will typically come out. Again, ask Bill Clinton.
Substituting hypocrisy for morality
None of that seems to have weakened Moore’s support among the evangelical Christian voters of Alabama who write the whole thing off as a Washington establishment plot engineered by either McConnell or Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, who owns The Washington Post.
That would be a bit easier to accept if these same good people hadn’t bought, hook line and sinker, the false allegations that former President Barack Obama was not born in the United States. These same voters, with regard to Moore, now ask: “Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty?”
Well, here’ another couple questions: Whatever happened to their morality test? Does anyone really believe these same Moore supporters would give Democratic rival Jones the benefit of the doubt if such allegations were made?
Moore says he will sue The Washington Post over the story.
No, he won’t.
He said that he would come forward last week with evidence that some of the women have been paid to make the accusations.
No, he didn’t.
But will that matter to the moral hypocrites who still support Moore’s candidacy despite these awful allegations?
No, it won’t.
There was a time when the Moral Majority-led, Christian conservative right wing of the Republican Party would never countenance such a thing.