The GOP appears torn over what should happen with Roy Moore after sexual misconduct allegations

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Roy Moore
Roy
Moore.

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Three camps are emerging in the Republican Party
regarding what it believes should
happen to Alabama’s Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore after The
Washington Post reported Thursday
that he initiated a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old girl when
he was 32.

Moore has vehemently denied the allegations made against him in
The Post. Multiple women told the publication that Moore pursued
relationships with them while he was in his 30s and they were
teens, and one woman described a sexual encounter she had with
Moore when she was 14. He has shown no signs that he will drop
out of the Senate race with just a month left before the
election.

That, in turn, has led to a major battle over whether Moore
should stay in the race. It’s the latest such skirmish to show
the fault lines in the longstanding intraparty feud.

But unlike past divisions,
this one has split into three distinct groups rather than two.

Almost immediately after The Post published its investigation,
Republican senators were asked about whether they still supported
Moore or thought he should stay in the race.

And nearly every Republican senator said he should leave the race
“if” the allegations were true.

The problem with that stance is that the “if true” qualifier left
the door open to speculation over how much additional proof would
be possible to obtain for instances that occurred decades back.
The only obvious standard for this, aside from the women coming
forward on the record with the allegations, would be for Moore to
admit he committed the acts laid out in The Post.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other top Republicans
qualified their statements by saying he should drop out if the
allegations were true.

“It’s devastating,” Republican Sen. David Perdue of Georgia, a
top congressional ally of President Donald Trump, told a
reporter Thursday. “I think if those allegations are true, he
should step aside. I mean, I’m sorry but this is untenable — if
they’re true. I have no facts, I just saw the story. But it’s
very serious.”

“These are serious and troubling allegations,” Republican Sen.
Ted Cruz of Texas, who endorsed Moore,
said in a statement. “If they are true, Judge Moore should
immediately withdraw. However, we need to know the truth, and
Judge Moore has the right to respond to these accusations”

President Donald Trump decided to join with the Republican
senators in the “if true” camp.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters on
the president’s trip to Asia that Moore “will do the right thing
and step aside” if the allegations against him are true.

“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,” she said. “However, the president also believes
that if these allegations are true, Judge Moore will do the right
thing and step aside.”

It should be noted that both Trump and Sanders have accused the
dozen women who claimed last year that the president sexually
harassed them of lying.

A number of prominent Alabama Republicans and members of the
insurgent right have taken to bashing The Post or the accusers,
or suggesting that the revelations were made with a political
motive.

Some also suggested that the allegations are not a big deal even
if true.

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon pointed to The
Washington Post as having been the outlet to publish both the
Moore allegations and Trump’s “Access Hollywood” tape last fall,
suggesting there is a political motive at play.

Speaking at the “Taking
On The Establishment” fundraiser in New Hampshire Thursday,
Bannon raised doubt about
the accusations, saying it was the “politics of
self-destruction.” He pointed to The Post, attacking its
credibility.

“But it’s interesting,” Bannon said in a recording obtained by CBS News.
“The Bezos-Amazon-Washington Post that dropped that dime on
Donald Trump, is the same Bezos-Amazon-Washington Post that
dropped the dime this afternoon on Judge Roy Moore.”

“Now is that a coincidence,” Bannon continued. “That’s what I
mean when I say opposition party, right?”

Daniel Dale, a reporter with the Toronto Star, contacted dozens of
Republican state officials in Alabama after the Moore story
went live. Those who returned his inquiries defended Moore
from the accusations.

“It was 40 years ago,” Alabama’s Marion County Republican Party
chair, David Hall, told
Dale. “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.”

“It does not really surprise me,” John Skipper, the chair of
Alabama’s Mobile County Republican Party, reportedly
said. “I think it is a typical Democratic — Democrat — ploy
to discredit Judge Moore, a sincere, honest, trustworthy
individual.”

Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler said the report was “much ado
about nothing,” even if true.

“The allegations are that a man in his early 30s dated teenage
girls,” Zeigler told
The Washington Examiner. “Even the Washington Post report
says that he never had sexual intercourse with any of the girls
and never attempted sexual intercourse.”

Zeigler even compared
Moore’s alleged actions to biblical figures.

“Take the Bible. Zachariah and Elizabeth for instance. Zachariah
was extremely old to marry Elizabeth and they became the parents
of John the Baptist,” Zeigler told The Examiner. “Also take
Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult
carpenter. They became parents of Jesus.”

“There’s just nothing immoral or illegal here,” Zeigler said.
“Maybe just a little bit unusual.”

A handful of
Republican politicians aren’t worrying about qualifying their
statements with “if true.” They are simply calling for Moore to
drop out immediately.

“Innocent until proven guilty is for criminal convictions, not
elections. I believe Leigh Corfman,” 2012 Republican presidential
nominee Mitt Romney
tweeted. “Her account is too serious to ignore. Moore is
unfit for office and should step aside.”

Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the 2008 GOP presidential
nominee, was the first major Republican politician to call for
Moore to quit the race immediately.

“The allegations against Roy Moore are deeply disturbing and
disqualifying,” he said in a statement. “He should immediately
step aside and allow the people of Alabama to elect a candidate
they can be proud of.”

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, often a critic of Trump, joined the camp
as well.

“I’ve long opposed Roy Moore & his divisive viewpoints,”
he tweeted. “The
actions described make him unfit for office. The GOP must not
support him. He should step aside.”

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