Last week, the political world was roiled when allegations appeared in a report from The Washington Post that Alabama senate candidate Roy Moore, a Republican, had molested a 14-year-old girl when he was a 32-year-old district attorney.
It was the latest in what seems to be an unending series of powerful men being brought down (and rightfully so) by often years-old allegations of sexual harassment, misconduct or assault. But this time, unlike the scandals that brought down Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey so swiftly, there was a notable reticence when it came to the Republican Moore from, you guessed it, Republicans.
“I don’t know whether or not what the Washington Post is reporting 38 years ago – up to 40 years ago – with Roy Moore is true,” Fox News anchor Sean Hannity said on his radio show last week. “I don’t know, and I don’t think anybody knows except the people that are involved and the people that make allegations.”
“If these allegations are true, he must step aside,” said GOP Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell last thursday in a statement representing all senators.
“Like most Americans, the president does not believe we can allow a mere allegation, in this case one from many years ago, to destroy a person’s life,” said White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. “However, the president also believes that if these allegations are true, Judge Moore will do the right thing and step aside.”
We should say that was before Monday, when McConnell was the first of a string of GOP senators to say they believe the women involved and to call on Moore to drop out of the race.
This is commendable, and we don’t want to minimize entirely the effect that a denouncement from Republican leadership can have on an issue like this. But in all honesty, it’s too little, too late.
When McConnell and company decided to make their opening salvo “if these allegations are true,” they started fighting a losing battle.
Women do not accuse men because it will get them famous. Publicly accusing an assaulter or an offender is not an easy process, and it often leads to exactly the kind of shaming we’ve seen from a right-wing media machine that was so eager to denounce the likes of Weinstein and Spacey: these women are clearly liars and are not to be believed.
It’s disgusting, and the now-consistent online trolling of victims, real people who by all accounts were genuinely molested or assaulted by a man nearly 20 years their senior is a testament to the fact that many Americans — including some on the left in cases involving some of their own — are not so much concerned with allegations of sexual misconduct as they might be with seizing on blood in the political water.
This isn’t a novel idea, and we’re certainly not the first ones to the punch. Even The National Review, normally that stalwart of what more and more seems to a bygone era of conservatism, has spent the past few days blasting Moore and calling for him to drop out days before senate Republicans did the same.
But if it isn’t new, then we need to call it out when we see it. Victims of sexual assault should not be political victims, too. We’re better than that.
The editorial board can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.