So many politicians gave the same terrible response to the Roy Moore abuse allegations

The Washington Post has published a detailed account of allegations that Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore initiated a sexual encounter and pursued a relationship with a 14-year-old girl  when he was 32. 

As politicians  — and most Republicans — responded to the shocking story of underage sexual abuse, a problematic theme emerged. Each statement relied on the phrase “if proven true,” or a variation of that. 

That might sound logical on its face — the allegations against Moore, now 70, haven’t been adjudicated in a court of law — but the phrase allows the commenting politician to have it both ways while relying on negative stereotypes about survivors of abuse. Sex abuse is objectively bad, “if proven true” seems to say, but let’s not forget that these women could be lying. 

Here’s an idea that you’d think we might have learned after the flood of disturbing allegations against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein — instead of relying on milquetoast statements that inherently blame victims, believe women.

The Post‘s report also details the accounts of three additional women who allege inappropriate relationships initiated by the former judge when they were teenagers. The Post‘s reporters wrote that they talked to 30 different sources before publishing the accounts. A statement from the Moore campaign called the allegations “completely false and a desperate political attack.” 

Few public figures are taking a hard line against Moore and his alleged predatory behavior —  most are instead opting for the most non-committal of condemnations while saving themselves a politically advantageous out. 

It’s beyond pervasive — take a look at the tweets and statements that came in all day Thursday:

Some Democrats fell into the same problematic language:

To Republican Sen. John McCain’s credit, he went all in and called for Moore to end his campaign, no qualifying statements needed. Others followed suit, like Rep. Dina Titus, a Democrat from Nevada.

The “if proven true” statements are bad, but other responses were, shockingly, far worse. Take this defense citing the Biblical story of Joseph and Mary to justify underage molestation.

The same politician, Alabama state auditor Jim Zeigler, also made this ridiculous statement defending Moore: “It’s much ado about very little.”

Moore too posted about the article and blamed the “Obama-Clinton Machine’s liberal media lapdogs” without outright denying any of the allegations.

Other terrible responses skirted around the issue by attacking the quality of the reporting and motivations of the Washington Post

Still others went all in on the time-honored tradition of victim blaming.

Breitbart and Drudge Report were unsurprisingly reluctant to report straightforwardly about the allegations against Moore. Breitbart relied on some, um, creative, defenses, such as nitpicking about the alleged victims’ ages and Moore’s marital status at the time (single). In an interview on MSNBC the ridiculous defenses came pouring in.

Moore, who was twice removed from the Alabama Supreme Court, doesn’t look like he’s going anywhere. A fundraising email sent shortly after the story published quoted the former judge as saying, “I refuse to stand down.” Further, the statute of limitations for sexual abuse of a minor is three years in the state of Alabama. It’s been 38 years. 

Moore’s up for the Senate seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in a special election in Alabama on Dec. 12. 

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