During a White House news briefing on Tuesday, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was grilled about why President Trump decided on Monday to explicitly endorse the U.S. Senate candidacy of Roy Moore — a homophobic, Islamophobic former judge who has been accused of sexual misconduct by eight women, including child molestation.
The talking point Sanders used to dodge questions about Trump’s endorsement is that whether or not it’s morally acceptable for an alleged child molester to serve in the U.S. Senate is a question best left to Alabama voters, but that in any event, the president would prefer to work with someone who supports his agenda.
Though Trump still finds the credible accusations against Moore “concerning,” Sanders said the president would “rather have a person that supports his agenda, versus somebody who opposes his agenda every step of the way.”
“The allegations are concerning and if true he should step aside, but we don’t have a way to validate that, and that’s something for the people of Alabama to decide — which we’ve also said — and we maintain that, and ultimately it will come to the people of Alabama to make that decision,” she added.
But there’s a fundamental incoherence to the White House’s position. After all, if Trump and company truly believe questions about whether Moore is fit to serve are best left up to Alabama voters, then why did the president go out of his way to endorse Moore in the first place?
Sanders was asked about the White House’s nonsensical position about Moore at the end of Tuesday’s briefing. She had no good answer.
“You’re saying let the people decide, but this administration has endorsed Roy Moore,” a reporter asked. “Why endorse him if you want the people to decide? You’re influencing the decision.”
Instead of answering the question, Sanders retreated to her talking points and said she’s “not going to get into every person that could or couldn’t run for office,” before reiterating that “the president made that decision, and he decided that it was better to have somebody that supports his agenda than a Democrat that doesn’t.”
Trump’s endorsement of Moore is problematic for reasons that go beyond the sexual misconduct allegations. Moore has a long history of extremism and bigotry, and recently indicated he stands by an op-ed he wrote in December 2006 that makes a case that Muslims shouldn’t be allowed to serve in Congress. As ThinkProgress reported last week, in 2011 Moore co-authored a textbook instructing students that women should not be permitted to run for elected office.
On Tuesday, a reporter asked Sanders if Trump “agrees with Roy Moore that Muslims shouldn’t be allowed to serve in Congress.” Sanders again dodged, saying that while Moore supports Trump, “the president doesn’t necessarily support everything of Moore’s agenda.”