Jesus, Mary, and Joseph! Alabama Republican downplays pedophilia, defends Roy Moore
Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate Roy Moore brandishes a pistol at one of his campaign rallies in Alabama. According to Moore, he pulled out the revolver to prove to voters that he supported the Second Amendment. | Screenshot from MSNBC

So what if Roy Moore, the Republican nominee for Alabama’s special U.S. Senate election next month, did some sexually inappropriate things with underage girls back in the ’70s? No big deal. At least that’s how one of Moore’s GOP supporters back in his home state seems to be explaining away the former judge’s alleged attempts to seduce minors.

“Much ado about nothing,” says Alabama State Auditor Jim Ziegler. Many Republicans in Washington responded with trepidation to Thursday’s Washington Post report featuring allegations by four women claiming Moore had pursued them when they were teenagers (ages 14-18) in the late 1970s.

From Mitch McConnell to John McCain and everyone in between, GOP senators issued statement after statement littered with ifs distancing themselves from Moore, essentially all saying the nominee has to go if the allegations are true.

There were a few, like Moore himself, who tried to denounce the women’s claims as “fake news.” Others pointed fingers at Moore’s Democratic opponent, Doug Jones, implying the allegations are a political hit-job. Jones is an attorney best known for heading up the prosecution of the last two Ku Klux Klansmen convicted of bombing Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church in which four black girls were killed in 1963.

Ziegler went even further, though. Rather than just saying the accusations are false or politically-motivated, the Alabama Republican actually hinted there’s no reason to get upset because Moore’s alleged actions, even if true, weren’t actually all that bad anyway.

“There is nothing to see here,” he told the Washington Examiner. “The allegations are that a man in his early 30s dated teenage girls. Even the Washington Post report says that he never had sexual intercourse with any of the girls and never attempted sexual intercourse.”

So, everything short of full-on intercourse is okay? It doesn’t matter that this was a powerful 32-year-old assistant district attorney coming onto a 14-year-old girl?

The youngest of the girls in question, Leigh Corfman, told the Post she remembered thinking at the time of the 1979 incident: “I wanted it over with—I wanted out… Please just get this over with. Whatever this is, just get it over.”

Ziegler’s not bothered by any of that, apparently.

In fact, he trotted out the mother of Jesus Christ to explain away Moore’s alleged indiscretions.

“Take the Bible,” he told the Examiner. “Take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus.” One would assume that Ziegler also holds to the concept of Christ’s immaculate conception, but never mind that for now.

Of what Moore is said to have done with the teenage girls, Ziegler concluded, “There’s just nothing immoral or illegal here.”

Christianity in service of alleged pedophilia. That’s where the GOP is at now.

Ziegler wasn’t the only one to jump to Moore’s defense in a rather twisted, almost-justifying-child-abuse sort of way. Steve Bannon—former top White House strategist, chief of Breitbart News, and ideological guardian of Trumpism—also chimed in late Thursday.

At a fundraiser in New Hampshire, Bannon said the allegations against Moore were the work of the “opposition party” press, a conspiracy between the media and the Democrats to take down conservative standard-bearers.

He compared the Post’s story on Moore to the leaked Access Hollywood tape from last year in which Donald Trump was recorded in all his sexist glory—the tape in which Trump said stars like him could get away with whatever they want when it comes to women: “Grab them by the pussy… You can do anything.”

Well, if Bannon is right and the Moore story is just like the Trump tape, then Bannon is actually implying the charges against Moore have merit. The Trump tape proved that the now-president was the sexist so many already knew him to be. Does the Post story show, then, that Moore is the predator these women allege?

The connection between Moore and Bannon is worth a quick review. Shortly after he was booted from the White House, Bannon latched onto Moore’s candidacy for the Republican Senate nomination against Luther Strange, who was the preference of the party big-shots in D.C. Moore and Strange were in a race to get the seat vacated by Jeff Sessions when he became Trump’s attorney general.

Determined to save the so-called “alt right” agenda (even, if necessary, from Trump himself, who endorsed Strange), Bannon showcased Moore as the kind of figure who could buck the party establishment and fight for “economic nationalism.”

Why pick Moore? Well, this is the same man who was twice elected and twice removed from the Alabama Supreme Court over his refusal to follow the law and prior court rulings on issues such as displaying religious icons in public buildings and same-sex marriage equality. The same man whose Christian non-profit foundation hosted pro-Confederate “Secession Day” events to glorify the old South. The same man who has been bankrolled to the tune of half-a-million dollars over the years by one of the directors of the League of the South, an outfit determined to set up a “southern nation” run by an “Anglo-Celtic” elite. The same man who said homosexuality should be illegal. Who claimed parts of America were already under Islamic Sharia law. Who suggested that the terrorist attacks of 9/11 were God’s punishment because America had turned away from him. Who brandishes pistols at campaign rallies.

The list could go on, but you can see why Bannon liked the guy. He’s more the Christian Crusader-type than Trump, but Moore’s still got that image of the politically independent maverick.

So, the factional split in the Republican Party again surfaces. The Bannon-led populist/white supremacist/fundamentalist wing and the business-backed neoliberal wing are still arrayed against one another, with Trump as the connecting thread.

How things will look when the dust of the Moore scandal settles is hard to predict. According to Alabama election officials, it’s too late to remove Moore from the ballot. Senate Republicans are squirming at the thought they may have to actually swear an accused pedophile into office as their newest colleague if Alabama voters do end up sending Moore to D.C.

As for Trump, he’s largely silent so far—unusual for him. As he arrived in Vietnam as part of his Asia tour, his press secretary said simply that the president “believes that if these allegations are true, Judge Moore will do the right thing and step aside.”

The Moore allegations do more than just throw a spotlight on the possible hypocrisy and immorality of one politician. The responses on the part of various Republican officials also expose the entire “moral agenda” that the GOP uses to manipulate voters as nothing but a façade.

Former White House strategist Steve Bannon attends a rally for Roy Moore, Sept. 26, in Montgomery, Ala. | Brynn Anderson / AP

If Republicans are truly worried about the moral degeneracy of the nation, they should start by looking inward—to their own party. Ideological devotion to an agenda of cutting health care, separating families through deportation, and shoveling much-needed tax dollars into the wallets of the wealthy disqualifies the party from claiming adherence to even the most basic standards of decency.

Whether the accusations against Moore are true or not, the fact that the Republican Party breeds public figures who can actually trot out the mother of Jesus Christ to explain away alleged pedophilia or justify the president’s sexual assault means there is something very rotten at the GOP’s core.


C.J. Atkins
C.J. Atkins

C.J. Atkins is the managing editor at People's World. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from York University in Toronto and has a research and teaching background in political economy and the politics and ideas of the American left. In addition to his work at People's World, C.J. currently serves as the Deputy Executive Director of ProudPolitics.