Republicans can't agree on what to do with Roy Moore

November 16, 2017, 7:19pm

Two women have now publicly accused GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore of sexual assault. Six more have said he propositioned them with dates in the late 1970s and ‘80s, when he was a 30-something assistant district attorney in Alabama and they were just teenagers.

Moore continues to deny the allegations, which he claims are part of a plot by the Left to smear his campaign. Other Republicans, however, don’t seem as sure that there’s nothing to the accusations. In a turnaround, several have withdrawn their support for Moore or even called for him to leave the race, while others have refrained from commenting.

Here’s a running list of where everyone stands so far:

President Donald Trump

Earlier this week, Trump said he believed Moore should step aside if the allegations against him are true. On Thursday, he refused to call for Moore to drop out of the race.

“The president believes that these allegations are very troubling and should be taken seriously, and he thinks that the people of Alabama should make the decision on who their next senator should be,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at Thursday’s news briefing.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions

Sessions, who previously held the seat Moore is now running for, went a step further than his boss. On Tuesday, he told the House Judiciary Committee that he had “no reason to doubt” the five women who’d come forward at that point to accuse Moore of trying to date them while they were teenagers. Sessions didn’t, however, say Moore should leave the race.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan

The Republican heads of the two chambers of Congress, however, didn’t mince words. Kentucky Sen. McConnell told reporters Monday, “I believe the women,” and added that Moore needs to “step aside.”

Wisconsin Rep. Ryan echoed McConnell Wednesday, saying, “These allegations are absolutely credible allegations, so the guy should step aside. If he cares about the people and values he claims to care about, then in faithfulness to those people and those values, he should step aside. It’s just that simple.”

Republican National Committee

The Republican National Committee, it seems, also agrees with McConnell and Ryan. Politico reported Tuesday that the group was ending its field operation in Alabama and ending its joint fundraising agreement with Moore. It remains unclear, however, just what Republicans think they can do to actually get Moore out of the race — at this point in the race, his name can’t be removed from the ballots.

The other senator from Alabama, Republican Richard Shelby, proposed one idea.

“I’ll vote Republican, but I will probably write in a good candidate,” Shelby told reporters Wednesday.

Alabama Republicans

State Republican voters appear to be split over whether to stand with Moore. Two members of the Alabama Republican Party told NBC that the party establishment decided to stick by him during a Wednesday meeting. Several Alabama seniors interviewed by VICE News also said that they were suspicious of the women who said Moore molested them and felt that he should be cut slack because older men dating teenagers was more common decades ago.

“Teachers touched us inappropriately, but we just didn’t say anything,” Marjorie Reese, a senior who’s still supporting Moore, told VICE News. “That was part of life, I guess.”

But polling reveals that not all Alabamians might feel the same way about the good ol’ days, where grown men were apparently free to cruise the local mall looking for dates with high school girls until they accrued enough complaints to be banned. A poll taken Sunday and Monday by the National Republican Senatorial Committee found that Doug Jones, Moore’s Democratic opponent, led him by 12 points in a state that’s usually reliably red.

Sean Hannity

The conservative Fox News pundit has struggled to get a handle on this whole Moore situation. Last week, Hannity had to apologize for indicating that Moore could have shared a consensual sexual encounter with a 14-year-old. Then, on Friday, Hannity had Moore on his show to get his side of the story. Finally, on Tuesday, Hannity gave Moore an ultimatum: “Remove any doubt” about the accusations that he’d dated teenage girls, Hannity said, or “get out of the race.”

In response, Moore sent Hannity an open letter that failed to remove that doubt. But Hannity chickened out of actually calling for Moore to leave the race.

Instead, after reading Moore’s letter in full on air, Hannity abruptly decided that the race “shouldn’t be decided by me,” and what what really mattered is that the people of Alabama “need to know the truth.”