Doug Jones views sexual assault as a distraction from ‘real issues’

The senator-elect insists he'll be voting with Republicans on certain issues.

Doug Jones, the newly elected Democratic senator from Alabama, told CNN on December 17, 2017, that the nation needs to move on from discussing sexual assaults against women. CREDIT: CNN/screenshot
Doug Jones, the newly elected Democratic senator from Alabama, told CNN on December 17, 2017, that the nation needs to move on from discussing sexual assaults against women. CREDIT: CNN/screenshot

The newly elected Democratic senator from Alabama, even before taking office, said he doesn’t believe the nation’s epidemic of violence and sexual harassment — often waged by powerful politicians and business leaders — is worthy of an ongoing conversation.

Speaking on CNN on Sunday, Jones emphasized he has no interest in focusing on what reporter Jake Tapper referred to as the “horrific” allegations of sexual assault against President Donald Trump. “Those allegations were made before the election. So people had an opportunity to judge before that election,” Jones said in the interview. “I think we need to move on and not get distracted by those issues. Let’s get on with the real issues that are facing people of this country right now.”

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), who campaigned for Jones in Alabama during the special Senate election, has called for Trump to resign over the multiple allegations of assault and harassment made against the president. When asked whether he supports Booker’s call, Jones responded, “I don’t think the president ought to resign at this point.” The Alabama Democrat said he doesn’t believe Trump, who has admitted to sexually assaulting women, should face the same fate as Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), who recently announced his intention to resign amidst multiple allegations by women of sexual harassment.

Trump was elected president “with those allegations at front and center,” Jones said.

Sexual misconduct was also front and center in Jones’ victory in Alabama last Tuesday. A month prior to the special Senate election, eight women came forward to accuse Roy Moore, Jones’ Republican opponent, of behaving inappropriately toward them — and in some cases, assaulting them — when most of them were minors and he was in his 30s. A large number of voters in Alabama, a deeply Republican state, opted to vote for Jones out of disgust with Moore’s alleged sexual misconduct with girls.

And yet Jones, only five days after his election victory, did not vow to make fighting the never-ending epidemic of violence against women, and sexual violence more broadly, one of his priorities when he comes to Washington. He repeated during his interview with Tapper that “we need to move on” and “work with the real issues facing the country.”

Political observers have noted that Jones did not run away from embracing certain liberal issues during his victorious campaign. Talking Points Memo’s Cameron Joseph observed that Jones did something surprising in his underdog Senate campaign: he ran like an actual Democrat. Jones proclaimed “liberal positions in a way that’s almost unheard of for Democrats running statewide in the Deep South,” Joseph wrote.

But after winning the Senate seat, the first time a Democrat has won a Senate election in Alabama since 1992, Jones appears to be pivoting to the right, as if he’s already preparing for a reelection bid in 2020. Tapper asked Jones if he needs to consider voting with Republicans — in the style of former Sen. Howell Heflin, a conservative Democratic senator from Alabama who was a mentor to Jones — to retain the seat in three years. “Of course I do,” Jones said. “I don’t expect to vote solidly for the Republicans or the Democrats.”

In a Sunday appearance on Fox News, Jones emphasized that he’s going to be a “Doug Jones Democrat.” He and host Chris Wallace discussed the Republican tax bill. Jones said he welcomed the provisions in the 503-page legislation that would cut the corporate tax rate. But he also expressed disappointment with the Republicans’ inability to simplify the nation’s tax code as they promised.

Jones told Wallace that he will seek an opportunity “at every turn” to find common ground with Republicans.