Illustration by Blair Gauntt
On Thursday, Rep. Steve King and Sen. Chuck Grassley both reacted to a story published earlier that day by The Washington Post, which detailed allegations that Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore sexually molested a teenage girl. King tweeted something pro-Moore, while Grassley chuckled in response to shouted questions from reporters.
Leigh Corfmann told the Post “that Moore had sexual contact with her in 1979 when she was 14 and he was a 32-year-old assistant district attorney.” Three other women recounted how a 30-something Moore pursued them when they were teenagers. The Post said it had interviewed more than 30 people to verify the women’s accounts.
Because of Corfmann’s age in 1979, Moore could have been charged with second-degree sexual assault under Alabama law, but Corfmann didn’t report his actions to the authorities.
The Moore campaign released a statement in response to the Post story, attacking the paper but never quite denying the allegations. The closest the statement comes to a denial is: “After over 40 years of public service, if any of these allegations were true, they would have been made public long before now.”
Alabama Republicans have continued to support Moore. State Auditor Jim Ziegler even cited what he considers Biblical precedents for older men to have with adolescents.
For the most part, national Republican leaders have been more cautious, although a few, such as Sen. John McCain, have called on Moore to withdraw from the race. The typical response has been that Moore should withdraw “if the allegations are true.”
Moore’s strongest defender in the media has been Breitbart, the rightwing online news site run by former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon. Following the publication of the Post story, Steve King tweeted out a Breitbart story that defended Moore and criticized Republicans for not offering more support to Moore.
On Friday, Breitbart published a story citing King’s tweet as an example of support for Moore. Little Village emailed King’s Washington D.C. office to ask what the congressman meant by his tweet, but has received no reply.
In September, King became one of the first Republicans outside Alabama to endorse Moore’s Senate bid.
By contrast, Sen. Grassley hasn’t only avoided endorsing Moore, two months ago he claimed he barely knew who Moore was, despite the fact Moore has made national news repeatedly over the last two decades.
In Sept., Politico asked several members of the Senate about Moore and his history of “racially insensitive remarks” and homophobic statements, as well as his belief that Muslims shouldn’t be allowed to serve in Congress and his claim 9/11 happened “because we’ve distanced ourselves from God.” Grassley replied, “I don’t know anything about Roy Moore. If I’ve read anything he’s said, I wouldn’t have any recollection of it.”
On Thursday, Grassley was seated next Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell during a photo op, when reporters began to shout questions to McConnell about the Post story on Moore. McConnell sat frozen in place. Grassley chuckled, as he waved to reporters and repeated, “Goodbye.” (Grassley’s reaction begins just after the three minute mark in the C-Span video below.)
(CNN’s camera captured a better view of Grassley, but that video is not embeddable.)
McConnell’s office later issued a statement saying, “If these allegations are true, [Moore] must step aside.” Grassley still has not released any comment on Moore.
On Thursday, Grassley’s office did issue a press release about a bill co-sponsored by Grassley that passed the Senate. The bill is described as “mandating that sexual harassment training will be mandatory for senators, staff and interns of the Senate. [sic]”