Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore allegedly sexually abused a then-14-year-old girl, the Washington Post reported Thursday. Moore quickly denied the allegations, calling them fake news.
Many Republicans in Congress called for Moore to step down — but gave him the benefit of the doubt.
“If these allegations are true, he must step aside,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said. Many of his fellow congressional Republicans offered nearly identical comments in response to the allegations against Moore.
Moore’s Democratic challenger also responded to the report Thursday evening, offering a very brief statement. “Roy Moore needs to answer these serious charges,” the campaign said in a statement to ThinkProgress.
But many lawmakers and public officials in Alabama are singing a different tune Thursday, offering outlandish responses to the bombshell report.
Asked about the allegations by the Washington Examiner, Alabama State Auditor Jim Ziegler said Moore is “clean as a hound’s tooth,” turned to the Bible.
“Take the Bible. Zachariah and Elizabeth for instance. Zachariah was extremely old to marry Elizabeth and they became the parents of John the Baptist,” Ziegler said. “Also take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus.”
Ziegler added that there was “nothing immoral or illegal” about what the four women and nearly 30 other sources told the Post.
“Maybe just a bit unusual,” Ziegler said.
David Hall, the Marion County GOP chair, also wrote off the allegations, telling the Toronto Star’s Daniel Dale that it was irrelevant to the race.
“I really don’t see the relevance of it,” Hall said. “He was 32. She was supposedly 14. She’s not saying that anything happened other than they kissed.”
The reporter told Hall that the story said Moore tried to get the girl to touch his genitals, and Hall said that although Moore might have tried to, it doesn’t change his vote.
“The other women that they’re using to corroborate: number one, one was 19, one was 17, one was 16,” Hall said. “There’s nothing wrong with a 30-year-old single male asking a 19-year-old, a 17-year-old, or a 16-year-old out on a date.”
Other officials simply said they didn’t believe the story was true.
“I don’t know how much validity these claims have to them,” Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill told ThinkProgress Thursday. “I know Judge Moore to be a man of character and integrity and I find it very shocking that this information is being introduced at this time in his career when he actually has been on the ballot dozens of times before this election cycle, and it’s just now being introduced. That’s very, very surprising to me.”
Merrill added that people “make things up all the time” and that he thinks it’s possible Thursday’s story about Moore was made up, too.
Merrill questioned the timing of the story to HuffPost, saying he thinks it’s odd that the allegations against Moore are coming out now and that Alabama has many “outstanding news people” and “not one of those people has ever been able to” unearth the allegations the Washington Post reported Thursday.
The Mobile County GOP chairman John Skipper had a similar response.
“It does not really surprise me. I think it is a typical Democratic — Democrat — ploy to discredit Judge Moore, a sincere, honest, trustworthy individual,” Skipper told the Toronto Star. “These allegations that surfaced today — to my knowledge, they’re all bunk. No credibility whatsoever.”