Right-wing media is twisting in itself into a pretzel, rallying around Alabaman U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore, a far-right Republican who was accused of sexually assaulting a teenage girl in a Washington Post story on Friday.
The Post has four on-the-record allegations about inappropriate relationships Moore had with teenage girls when he was a prosecutor in Alabama around 40 years ago; one woman says that Moore forced her to touch his genitals when she was 14 and he was 32.
In response, far-right outlets like Breitbart and the Gateway Pundit have mounted a few different defenses of Moore, who is running in a December 12 special election for Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ former Senate seat.
They have attacked the Washington Post as being part of the biased liberal media, and they have questioned whether it is really all that bad for Moore to have pursued 16- and 17-year-old girls when he was at least a dozen years older. These publications were major supporters of Moore — an anti-gay, evangelical Christian — during his September GOP primary battle against establishment and Trump administration pick Luther Strange.
Breitbart, in fact, released a defense of Moore ahead of the publication of the Post’s story, in which suggested that the Post’s story was just a weak “hit” piece: “After Endorsing Democrat in Alabama, Bezos’s Washington Post Plans to Hit Roy Moore with Allegations of Inappropriate Relations with Teenagers; Judge Claims Smear Campaign.”
And shortly after the news broke, Breitbart editor Joel Pollak appeared on MSNBC to defend Moore and argue that only one relationship outlined in the Post’s story was “problematic.”
This might be touchy territory for Breitbart, however, as its former editor Milo Yiannopoulos was forced to resign after playing down pedophilia in public comments.
Even slightly more mainstream conservative outlets have attempted to defend Moore, is facing off against Democrat and former U.S. Attorney Doug Jones in next month’s election. On his Thursday night program, Sean Hannity apologized for comments he made earlier in the day on his radio show, in which he suggested that Moore’s sexual interactions with a 14-year-old were “consensual.”
Republican politicians, meanwhile, have equivocated and mostly said that Moore should quit the Senate race if the allegations are true, fearful of blowing a safe GOP election that could leave them with a one-seat majority in the Senate. Others — namely establishment-aligned Arizona Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake — have called on Moore to step aside immediately.