In the hours after news broke that Roy Moore defeated Luther Strange in Tuesday’s Republican primary for the U.S. Senate in Alabama seat formerly held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, President Trump and Vice President Pence both quickly embraced Moore — an extremist candidate who has said 9/11 was punishment for the U.S. turning away from God, homosexuality should be illegal, and has pushed the racist conspiracy theory that President Obama is a Muslim.
On Tuesday night, Trump deleted tweets in which he endorsed Moore’s primary opponent, Luther Strange, including a false one in which the president claimed his endorsement was causing Strange to surge in the polls.
Trump’s decision to delete the tweets was unusual — he never deleted the tweets falsely claiming Obama’s birth certificate was a fraud.
Despite making antipathy to the Republican establishment a centerpiece of his campaign, Moore was even embraced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Tuesday night. In a statement, McConnell, who was first elected to the Senate more than 30 years ago, claimed he shares Moore’s frustration about the workings of Washington DC.
“I would like to congratulate Roy Moore on his victory in Alabama tonight,” McConnell said. “He ran a spirited campaign centered around a dissatisfaction with the progress made in Washington. I share that frustration and believe that enacting the agenda the American people voted for last November requires us all to work together.”
Moore, the former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, resigned in disgrace from the court earlier this year after he was suspended for continuing to enforce the state’s unconstitutional ban on same-sex marriage. That marked the second time Moore left the Alabama Supreme Court amid controversy — in 2003, he was removed from the court after he refused a federal court’s order to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from the Alabama Judicial Building.
Trump, Pence, and McConnell’s quick embrace of Moore raises the question of exactly what views a candidate would have to espouse in order to be considered too extreme for the Republican Party. During a Fox & Friends interviews on Wednesday morning, Moore dismissed Trump’s support for his primary opponent, saying “I don’t think the president knew me.”
“I think when he gets to know me that he’ll understand that I do support a very conservative agenda for this country, and I think that he will back me, and I received a call from him, and that’s what he said he would do,” Moore said.
Trump promised during his campaign that he would be a better “friend of women and the LGBT community” than Hillary Clinton. His public embrace of Moore is just the latest evidence of how empty his words were.