Roy Moore is a Republican Senate candidate for Alabama. He is alleged to have committed sexual offences against an underage girl approximately 40 years ago.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, also a Republican, has said Moore must step aside if the allegations are true:

Numerous prominent figures lined up to cast Moore into the wilderness, most using the same formula of words: “If these allegations are true, he must step aside.”

Subscribers to that phrase included the majority leader, Mitch McConnell; the senior senator from Alabama, Richard Shelby; Senator Ted Cruz of Texas; and Susan Collins, senator from Maine.

However, President Trump has made remarks that could be construed as admitting sexual assault, for example in the infamous "grab them by the pussy" recording released prior to his election.

Why is it that Moore "must" stand down? And is it inconsistent for McConnell to support Trump while denouncing Moore?

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    @RoyalCanadianBandit Trump has not "admitted" to committing sexual assault against anyone. He's denied that entirely. The recording was dismissed as "locker room talk": stuff you say you did to sound manly and dominant, and to impress other men, when there are only men around, but might not have actually done. So at most he's admitted to thinking acts that could constitute sexual assault would give him man-cred. Nov 10, 2017 at 12:38
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    @zibadawatimmy: Edited. It is true that Trump has not admitted to any specific incident of sexual assault. Whether the remark on the recording accurately reflected Trump's behaviour has not been definitively established. (Lawyerly remarks aside, it is at least highly plausible Trump has committed sexual assault.) Nov 10, 2017 at 14:19
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    @Oleg: Multiple accusations of sexual assault; his ex-wife Ivana's sworn deposition that he raped her; and a consistent pattern of bullying and narcissistic behaviour. (And that's to start with.) If you don't believe that's enough to make sexual assault by Trump plausible, then of course that's your prerogative. Nov 10, 2017 at 15:41
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    I'm not sure how this question is really answerable. Consistency isn't exactly a politician's forte to begin with, and the idea that he "must" do anything is really just referring to the fact that someone did something bad, so others feel a bit responsible for condemning said bad act. It's just their opinion that he must step down...not a law of any sorts. This doesn't really seem like a politics question as much as question of social mores.
    – user1530
    Nov 10, 2017 at 16:43
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    I really think this is more of an English language usage question. The politicians are saying "must" when what they really mean is something along the lines of "he ought to step down because having an accused child molester and hypocritical Christian running as a Republican is bad for our image".
    – jamesqf
    Nov 10, 2017 at 19:38

4 Answers 4


Understand that these allegations are potentially more damaging to Moore. Moore has a decent political following in Alabama, following his two "religious" actions that got him removed from the Chief Justice position

  • In 2001 Moore installed a Ten Commandments monument in the Alabama Supreme Court. Federal courts ruled it unconstitutional (separation of church and state) and ordered it removed. Moore refused to comply and both he and the monument were removed.
  • Moore ran again in 2012 and won a new term. In 2014, after the Gay Marriage ruling by the US Supreme Court, he issued an opinion to the state's probate offices that they did not need to comply with that ruling. Moore was again removed from office.

Moore is thus seen by his supporters as a religious martyr with deep convictions. These actions are in sharp contrast with that, if true. Trump, by contrast, is not seen as a deeply religious person at all.

"If he suddenly came out all religious, that would seem staged to me," said White, who has known Trump for 14 years. "Donald has never been public about his faith, and when he has tried, it has been futile. It's not his language, but that doesn't mean it's not his heart."

It's also worth noting that the Access Hollywood "grab them" statement was not an admission of guilt by Trump on a specific allegation. He was talking in a disambiguous way that he could do that if he so desired.

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    Actually, he did give some specifics, without naming names, that he went after a married woman but she maneuvered away from them. He also said he entered the dressing room of the Miss Universe pageant when he knew the contestants would very probably in the process of getting dressed.
    – jalynn2
    Nov 10, 2017 at 19:26
  • @jalynn2 Maybe you're thinking of something else? Trump did discuss attempting to have sex with a woman, but in the context of the "grab them" comment he appears to be referring to nobody in particular. Either way, it was a vulgar comment. My point is that Moore is not as free as Trump to be like that.
    – Machavity
    Nov 10, 2017 at 19:34
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    this answer is not fully correct, apparently there is a good chunk of religious voters that don't care about the allegations, and another that is more likely to vote for him because of them: thehill.com/homenews/senate/…
    – Federico
    Nov 14, 2017 at 9:03
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    @Federico 62% are either unchanged (which just means they didn't change their opinion for better or worse) or less likely. As to the 37%, a lot of that has to do with Trump. Moore has spun this as the "liberal media" attacking him just as Trump has. The question I have about the poll itself is how many of the respondents were likely voters. Turnout in the runoff was about 12%. It remains to be seen what the general election turnout will be, now that attention has intensified.
    – Machavity
    Nov 14, 2017 at 14:06
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    @Federico The argument is that they would be damaging if proven true, not that they are damaging as-is. Nov 14, 2017 at 15:22

What is happening?

First of all, McConnell has no power whatsoever to force Moore to step aside as a candidate. When he says Moore must stand down, he doesn't necessarily mean anyone will make him do it; he might only mean he would strongly prefer it if Moore went away.

It is also significant that McConnell said Moore should step aside if the allegations are true. With anything short of a criminal conviction, McConnell can take the line that no matter how unsavoury the allegations are, they have not been proven and Moore is innocent until proven guilty.

In effect, McConnell is putting on a show of moral outrage for public consumption. If Moore is actually elected to the Senate, McConnell may or may not care about the allegations against him, but he is unlikely to go so far as to exclude him from the Republican caucus.

Is it hypocrisy?

It could be argued McConnell's behaviour is not entirely hypocritical. (The question of whether McConnell is a nice guy is not relevant here.)

Let's suppose Senator Jane Smith denounces some allegation of unethical behaviour against candidate Fred Jones. If Jones is elected to office, Smith could truthfully say she's uncomfortable with the allegations against Jones; but Jones is the democratic choice of the voters and Smith has an obligation to work with him constructively.

The above reasoning would hold true regardless of which parties Smith and Jones belong to, and which office Jones was running for.

  • Technically, it's only hypocrisy if McConnell has engaged in similar behavior, or at least behavior which is approximately as offensive as Moore's. But I agree that McConnell's statement contains at least an element of posturing for public consumption. As is commonly true of politicians' statements. Nov 13, 2017 at 18:17

Why is it that Moore "must" stand down?

This is fairly straightforward. Presently, sexual abuse of minors is one of the most serious societal infractions that is possible. If not the most serious. There are few, if any, mitigations that can be put forward that would be accepted in the large.

As such, proof of such abuse would be considered by many to be a heinous crime so would make holding a political position untenable.

However, President Trump has admitted to committing sexual assault

Not quite. President Trump was caught bragging about it in a private conversation. The context is important because it opens up the possibility that he was lying for effect.

Now, being a braggadocio is scummy behaviour especially in regard to something like sexual assault. However, by societal standards, it is substantially less serious than proven abuse of minors.

And is it inconsistent for McConnell to support Trump while denouncing Moore?

This is a matter of personal opinion. There is a disparity in the societal opprobrium for these two actions: abuse of minors and bragging about sexual assault. It would appear that McConnell does not consider the bragging sufficiently terrible to require the President to stand down. But he does consider proven child abuse sufficient reason.

Personally, I agree that one is worse than the other but both should be more than sufficient to disqualify someone from high office. Unfortunately, not everyone holds my opinion.

  • So in your opinion some obscure unspecified remark is sufficient to disqualify someone???
    – Oleg
    Nov 10, 2017 at 14:59
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    "It would appear that McConnell does not consider the bragging sufficiently terrible to require the President to stand down" - Or political reality is that McConnel doesn't have the ability to ask the president to stand down, while keeping his own job.
    – Peter
    Nov 10, 2017 at 15:38
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    @Oleg Not sure what you mean by obscure and unspecified. He was taped boasting about what he had done and to whom. It was widely publicised. And yes, I think that should be more than sufficient as long as it was proved that he said it (which I don't believe was even denied).
    – Alex
    Nov 10, 2017 at 15:49
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    @Oleg if by 'obscure' you mean 'said on camera that everyone that watches TV heard', yes. But that's an odd definition of 'obscure'. Also note there are a lot of credible sources saying there are tapes of him saying much worse things from his apprentice days. So I don't think 'obscure' is the right word here by any means.
    – user1530
    Nov 10, 2017 at 17:48

Why is it that Moore "must" stand down?

McConnell isn't saying that Moore is actually required to stand down. He is emphasizing how strongly he wants Moore to stand down.

And is it inconsistent for McConnell to support Trump while denouncing Moore?

McConnell has made no secret of his distaste for Trump. And while Trump's statement was deplorable, it did not make any specific allegations of criminal behavior and even the behavior it implied wasn't as bad as what Moore is accused of doing.

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