Many top members of the Republican Party, including Senators Mitch McConnell and John McCain, are abandoning their support for Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore after allegations of sexual misconduct against him have been surfacing.
The controversial accusations against Moore, a Christian evangelical, came to light when The Washington Post last Thursday published the accounts of four women — including a 14 and 16 year-old — accusing Moore of sexual misconduct which included initiating sexual advances and inappropriate touching.
Moore has called the accusations political attacks against him and conservative media figures have suggested the claims against Moore could be false. The alt-right website Breitbart defended Moore by suggesting that details of the allegations are contradictory.
Senate Republicans have made their stance on the issue relatively clear, pulling out of a joint fund-raising agreement with Moore’s campaign and rescinding endorsements in the days since the allegations came to light.
Arizona Senator John McCain said, “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.”
Senators Susan Collins and Orrin Hatch both tweeted on Monday that Moore should step down. They joined a number of other Senate Republicans in either revoking their support or calling for him to end his campaign.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday also called on Moore to “step aside.”
“I think he should step aside,” McConnell said during a press conference when asked about the calls from his Senate colleagues for Moore to leave the race.
When pressed to explain his stance on the allegations, McConnell said, “I believe the women.”
Moore fired back in a tweet using the hashtag “DrainTheSwamp” and said McConnell is the person who should step aside: “He has failed conservatives and must be replaced.”
‘Expel Moore if elected’
In the most recent reaction to the Moore scandal, Senator Cory Gardner who leads the Senate GOP campaign arm, called on the Senate to expel the embattled Alabama GOP nominee if he wins December’s special election in Alabama.
The special election has been scheduled to choose former Senator Jeff Sessions’s successor, as Sessions resigned from the Senate in February 2017 to serve as US Attorney General.
“I believe the individuals speaking out against Roy Moore spoke with courage and truth, proving he is unfit to serve in the United States Senate and he should not run for office,” said Gardner, who is the first GOP senator to publicly raise the specter of expulsion. “If he refuses to withdraw and wins, the Senate should vote to expel him, because he does not meet the ethical and moral requirements of the United States Senate.”
The US Senate has not expelled a member since 1862.
Trump team urges caution
Even as many Republicans have condemned and pulled their support for Moore, top Trump administration officials cautioned that Moore should be allowed to defend himself against allegations that he pursued sexual and romantic relationships with teenage and underage girls.
“There’s no Senate seat more important than the notion of child pedophilia,” Trump’s chief liaison to Capitol Hill Marc Short said. “But having said that, he has not been proven guilty. And we have to afford him the chance to defend himself.”
“If more evidence comes out that can prove that he did this, then sure, by all means he should be disqualified, but that’s a huge if.”
Kellyanne Conway, the White House counselor, said on ABC’s “This Week” that the conduct as described was “disqualifying” but that judgment should not be rendered based on what she called a single news article.
Alabama still favors Moore
Despite the allegations against Moore, he still holds a 10-point lead over his Democratic opponent, according to a new poll.
The Emerson College survey found that Moore has the support of 55 percent of the Alabama voters polled, compared to 45 percent for the Democratic nominee, Doug Jones.
The poll was conducted from November 9 to 11, after The Post published its report on the scandal.
In a JMC analytics poll, 37 percent of Alabama evangelicals said that they are even more likely to vote for Moore, himself an evangelical, after allegations of sexual misconduct arose against him.
Just 28 percent said the allegations made them less likely to vote for Moore and 34 percent said the allegations made no difference in their decision.