Eighteen days. That’s how long it took Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to walk back his call for accused pedophile Roy Moore to drop out of the Alabama Senate race.
In a Nov. 14 story published in the Associated Press, McConnell claimed the Congressional hopeful should resign from a December runoff election to fill Jeff Sessions’ vacated Senate seat. Just days before, four women told the Washington Post that in the 1970s, a then 30-year-old Moore solicited them for sex. All were teenagers at the time, one as young as 14.
Five more women would subsequently add their names to Moore’s increasingly long list of accusers, dating back to when he was a district attorney in Gadsden, Ala. Reports suggest that police knew enough of his conduct to keep him away from shopping malls.
“I believe the women,” McConnell said less than three weeks ago, adding that Moore “should step aside.”
But the Senate’s highest-ranking Republican no longer believes that a man who has been accused by nearly a dozen women of sexual misconduct should resign as a party nominee. McConnell, who forced through a tax bill on Friday analysts warned could lead to another Great Depression, told the CBS news program Face the Nation on Sunday that it’s up to the voters to decide if Moore is fit to serve in Congress.
“The people of Alabama are going to decide a week from Tuesday who they want to send to the Senate,” he said. “It’s really up to them. It’s been a pretty robust campaign with a lot of people weighing in.”
The president and I, of course, supported somebody different earlier in the process,” McConnell continued. “But in the end, the voters of Alabama will make their choice.”
The Kentucky Republican also flip-flopped on his earlier promise that Moore would face immediate expulsion if he were to get elected to Congress. He instead suggested on Sunday that the ballot box would serve as the embattled politician’s judge and jury.
“The ethics committee will have to consider the matters that have been litigated in the campaign should that particular candidate win,” McConnell said.
The 75-year-old changed his tune on Moore just as the Alabama GOP candidate’s poll numbers began to turn around. Moore held a consistent lead in the special election until the Post story broke on Nov. 9, often by as many as double-digit percentage points. A week later, surveys showed that his Democratic challenger, former prosecutor Doug Jones, was ahead in the race.
But Moore has led Jones for the past week. Poll averages from RealClearPolitics show the conservative ahead by 3.2 pointsand continuing to gain ground.
Even more troublingly, a survey published by CBS News and YouGov on Sunday showed that 71 percent of Alabama Republicans don’t believe the numerous, well-sourced allegations against Moore, believing them to be lies cooked up by the media and the Democratic party. A separate poll from the Washington Post and the Schar School of Policy and Government came to a similar conclusion, finding that just 35 percent of likely voters thought the reports were true.
President Donald Trump is scheduled to speak at a rally for Moore on Friday, even after Press Secretary Sarah Sanders claimed the POTUS wouldn’t have the time to stump for him. Trump has defended Moore by saying that he “denies” the claims.
“That’s all I can say,” the president told reporters in November. “He denies it. And, by the way, he totally denies it.”
Moore is one of the nation’s most extreme anti-LGBTQ politicians. He has compared same-sex marriage to slavery, called for the criminalization of sodomy, blamed queer people for the Sept. 11 attacks, and attempted to block a lesbian mother from unsupervised visitation with her children in fear she would pose a danger to them.
When confronted with the sexual assault claims, Moore pointed the finger at socialists, liberals, and the LGBTQ community for spreading the reports.
“They don’t want conservative values,” Moore said during a speech delivered at Magnolia Springs Baptist Church in Theodore, Ala. on Nov. 29. “They are the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgenders who want to change our culture. They are socialists who want to change our way of life and put man above God and the government is our God.”
The crowd reportedly applauded his remarks.