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Their excuses are staggering.
Despite at least six women saying Moore subjected them sexual assault and misconduct—many when they were under 18 years old, including one woman who was 14 at the time—and a reputation for such behavior in the community that led to his being banned from a local mall, Trump offered his support of Moore last week. With his customary lack of nuance, Trump said, “he totally denies it,” defending the candidate.
As we noted recently, Moore has a record that should more than disqualify him from public office. As we also noted, if recent history is any indicator, it probably won’t matter to many Republicans. Trump wasn’t the only figure to circle the wagons around Moore in recent weeks. Prominent figures in politics, the media, and Alabama’s religious community have also come forward to support Moore.
On balance, these defenses read like a laundry list of the ways that patriarchal institutions have justified the wrongdoing of powerful men while casting doubt on the accusations of women. From religious justifications to victim blaming to accusing out-of-state agitators for getting involved in local business, we’ve heard all the greatest hits.
Here are the excuses that political, media, and religious figures have used to support the Alabama firebrand and silence his accusers.
President Donald Trump
Before we leave our commander-in-chief behind, let’s dig a little deeper into his comments. When asked by a reporter if it was better to elect a Democrat or an alleged child molester, Trump said, “He says it didn’t happen. You have to listen to him, also.” In the customary fashion of our president, he doubled-down on these comments, adding, “I do have to say, 40 years is a long time. He’s run eight races, and this has never come up. So 40 years is a long time.”
With those comments, Trump has essentially hit every square on the “textbook methods of discrediting victims” bingo card. And of course, it bears mentioning, that Trump himself faces numerous accusations of sex crimes.
Jim Zeigler, Alabama state auditor
Speaking to the Washington Examiner, Ziegler evoked the Bible (ignoring the contextual realities of the era) and defended Moore.“Take Mary and Joseph. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter,” Zeigler said. “They became parents of Jesus. There’s nothing immoral or illegal here. Maybe just a little bit unusual.”
John Skipper, former Mobile County GOP chair
Skipper took a more conspiratorial angle when defending Moore. He called the allegations against Moore “total contrived media garbage.” He went on to add, “Most [voters] will not be shocked and will rather be expecting these shenanigans being pulled by Democrats as standard operating procedure.”
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, White House press secretary
In a statement, Sanders offered, “Like most Americans the president believes we cannot allow a mere allegation, in this case one from many years ago, to destroy a person’s life.”
Randy Brinson, president of the Christian Coalition of Alabama
“Until I see something different, I would support Roy Moore because of what he says he’s going to do and who he is as a person,” Brinson told the New York Times.
Rep. Ed Henry (R-Hartselle)
Alabama State Rep. Ed Henry went long with the local Cullman Times in an attempt to discredit Moore’s accusers. He told the paper:
“The idea that accusations like this would stop his campaign is ludicrous. If this was a habit, like you’ve read with Bill Cosby and millions of dollars paid to settle cases and years of witnesses, that would be one thing. You cannot tell me there hasn’t been an opportunity through the years to make these accusations with as many times as [Moore has] run and been in the news. … If they believe this man is predatory, they are guilty of allowing him to exist for 40 years. I think someone should prosecute and go after them. You can’t be a victim 40 years later in my opinion. … I’m not buying it. It’s too easy for someone to make these accusations. It’s foolish to go down that road, it’s like, what if a frog had wings? He wouldn’t bump his ass every time he jumps.”
For those keeping score at home, that defense included a racist dog whistle, victim blaming, culture war, questioning the time it took to come forward, blaming law enforcement, and a folksy analogy.
David Hall, Marion County GOP chair
Toronto Star Washington correspondent Daniel Dale kept a running list of quotes he received from Republican officials in Alabama on his Twitter account (@ddale8), including this quote from Hall: “It was 40 years ago. I really don’t see the relevance of it. He was 32. She was supposedly 14. She’s not saying that anything happened other than they kissed.”
William Blocker, Covington County GOP chair
Blocker smeared one of Moore’s accusers when speaking to Dale. He said the stories about Moore were fake and claimed that one of the women who came forward comes from “the typical background or profile of somebody they would be using for that.”
Riley Seibenhener, Geneva County GOP chair
Speaking to Dale, Seibenhener said that he doesn’t believe the allegations against Moore are true. If they were true, he believes they would not constitute “forcible rape.” He added, “I know 14-year-olds don’t make good decisions.”
John Merrill, Alabama secretary of state
“It’s odd to me that this information has just been introduced. In all the campaigns Judge Moore has ever run before— and he has run a lot of them, probably a dozen campaigns. It’s very, very odd to me this information has just been introduced,” he said, according to HuffPost.
Mike Allison, pastor at Madison Baptist Church
The pastor told CNN, “I don’t even believe the allegations. There’s lots of fake news going around these days. They’re allegations. How can he even defend himself against 40-year-old allegations? You used to be innocent until proven guilty. I support him now more than ever.”
Jamie Holcomb, reverend at Young’s Chapel Congregational Methodist Church
“I stand behind him 100 percent unless there’s proof,” he told CNN.
Joe Pollack, Breitbart editor
Breitbart editor Joe Pollack went on MSNBC to offer a wide-ranging defense of Moore and attack the Washington Post’s reporting on the story. During the appearance, he said, “The 16-year-olds and the 18-year-old have no business in that story because those women are of legal age of consent.” He added, “The Post has successfully put a narrative out, at least on MSNBC and in other places, that there’s this pattern of teenagers. There’s really, as far as we know—the facts could come out differently—but as far as we know, there’s only one relationship that’s been alleged that’s problematic.”
Brandon Moseley, journalist at Alabama Political Reporter
Alabama-based reporter Brandon Moseley went on CNN to offer perhaps the strangest and grossest defense of Moore yet:
“…[I]f, you know, Roy Moore had stolen a lawn mower when he was 21, that’s bad, but that’s not a reason 50 years later to all of a sudden, you know, throw him off the ballot or let [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell pick the next senator of Alabama.”
Kayla Moore, Roy Moore’s wife
At a campaign rally last week, Mrs. Moore told the crowd, “Most of the negative have been from out of state. The people of Alabama know what is going on here.”
Brenden Gallagher is a politics reporter and cultural commentator. His work has been published by Motherboard, Complex, and VH1. He’s the co-founder of Beer Money Films, an indie production company. Based in Los Angeles, he works in television drama as a writers assistant.