The special election for Attorney General Jeff Sessions' Senate seat has taken a disturbing turn. On Nov. 9, The Washington Post published an explosive report alleging that GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore initiated a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old girl when he was 32 years old, which Moore denies. One might think that the mere hint of sexual misconduct would be enough for the GOP to drop Moore, but many are saying that Moore should drop out only if the story is true, and some politicians are coming to Moore's defense.
The report alleges that in 1979, Moore introduced himself to Leigh Corfman, then 14 years old, while she was waiting outside of a custody hearing at the courthouse where Moore was the assistant district attorney. He allegedly initiated sexual contact with Corfman several times, increasing in intensity each time. Corfman recalls that she just "wanted it over with." Her mother and several friends corroborated her story.
The Washington Post also reports that three other women have claimed that Moore "pursued them when they were between the ages of 16 and 18 and he was in his early 30s." One of the women was 14 and working at the mall as a Santa's helper when Moore allegedly first approached her; she claims he asked her on several dates when she was 16.
Moore has denied the allegations, calling them "completely false and a desperate political attack," and his campaign chair released a lengthy statement that denies the Washington Post's report.
Though his colleagues in the Republican party have condemned the reports, the condemnations have come with a caveat. In a statement on behalf of all Republican senators, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters, "If these allegations are true, he must step aside."
Vice President Mike Pence issued a similar statement through his press secretary, according to Politico's Matthew Nussbaum: "The Vice President found the allegations in the story disturbing and believes, if true, this would disqualify anyone from serving in office."
Texas Senator Ted Cruz also released a similar statement with the "if true" caveat, saying, "If they are true, Judge Moore should immediately withdraw. However, we need to know the truth, and Judge Moore has the right to respond to these accusations."
This might seem like a reasonable, if wishy-washy caveat. For context on this, The Washington Post used 30 sources for this story, and the Wall Street Journal contacted several of the sources, all of whom stand by their stories. So the question remains, what more would it take for them to call for Moore to step down?
While these reactions from Cruz, et. al. are disappointingly blasé, others have responded by trying to explain away Moore's alleged actions. For example, Fox News host Sean Hannity, on his radio program The Sean Hannity Show, called the encounters "consensual" and said he doubted whether the allegations were true, per Business Insider. Hannity later said he misspoke, via a now-deleted tweet.
One Alabama politician used Christianity to try to explain Moore's alleged actions. Alabama state auditor Jim Ziegler cited the Biblical figures of Joseph and the Virgin Mary. He told the Washington Examiner, “take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus.”
Toronto Star reporter Daniel Dale tweeted that another Alabama politician, Marion County GOP chair David Hall, said that because these encounters had allegedly occurred four decades ago, they were irrelevant.
These reactions are disturbing and even downright infuriating, showing to what lengths some people will go to win an election — which one man even acknowledged.
These people are showing their hand: that they care so much about a political game that they're willing to throw their weight behind someone with an alleged pattern of predatory behavior if it means they win.
The fact of the matter is that, despite what some say about the alleged encounters — it was just kissing, it was 40 years ago, Jesus was raised by people with a large age difference — there is not a single circumstance where a sexual relationship between a 14-year-old girl and a 32-year-old man would be acceptable.
In all fairness, there have also been some unequivocal calls from the right for Moore to step out of the race.
Arizona Senator John McCain tweeted that Moore "should immediately step aside." No qualifier. He wrote, "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."
One thing's for sure, no one can be proud of some of these responses.