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How Responses To Allegations Of Sexual Misconduct Vary Between Trump And Roy Moore


The Republican National Committee is once again supporting Roy Moore's campaign for Senate in Alabama less than a month after withdrawing support. The reversal happened after President Trump endorsed the embattled Republican. Moore has been accused of pursuing relationships with teenaged girls when he was in his 30s. And in two cases, the accusation is that he sexually assaulted them.

NPR's Tamara Keith reports that the arc of the Moore campaign has a lot in common with what happened after the "Access Hollywood" video shocked last year's presidential campaign.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: The "Access Hollywood" video was recorded in 2005, when Donald Trump was a reality TV star. But it came out just a month before Election Day 2016.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: You know, I'm automatically attracted to beautiful - I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet. Just kiss.

BILLY BUSH: (Laughter).

TRUMP: I don't even wait. And when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.

KEITH: By the end of the next day, 30 prominent Republicans had called for Trump to step aside, including now-former Congressman Jason Chaffetz.


JASON CHAFFETZ: You know, my wife and I - we have a 15-year-old daughter. And if I can't look her in the eye and tell her these things, I can't endorse this person.

KEITH: House Speaker Paul Ryan disinvited Trump from a rally he was holding for Republican candidates in Wisconsin.


PAUL RYAN: Let me just start off by saying there is a bit of an elephant in the room. And it is a troubling situation. I'm serious. It is.

KEITH: In the coming days, more than a dozen women would come forward to accuse Trump of inappropriate behavior. He denied it all, much like Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, who similarly faced calls to get out of the race.


MITCH MCCONNELL: I think he should step aside.

KEITH: That was Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in mid-November shortly after the accusations against Moore first emerged.


MCCONNELL: I believe the women, yes.

KEITH: Around that time, President Trump, through Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, even said Moore should get out of the race, though with a qualification.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS: He said if the allegations are true, he should step aside.

KEITH: That was nearly a month ago. Moore didn't bend to pressure to drop out. Republicans didn't mount a write-in campaign. And this was President Trump today, endorsing Moore.


TRUMP: I think he's going to do very well. We don't want to have a liberal Democrat in Alabama. Believe me. We want strong voters. We want stopping crime. We want to have the things that we represent.

KEITH: If that sort of reasoning sounds familiar, that's because it is. Here was then-Congressman Chaffetz on CNN less than a month after withdrawing his endorsement of Trump.


CHAFFETZ: The reality is there's only two people that might become the president - Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. That's the vote that's facing us. And that's why I'm voting for Donald Trump.

KEITH: Shortly before Election Day 2016, Paul Ryan, who had distanced himself from Trump, announced that he had voted early for him and encouraged his fellow Republicans to, quote, "come home." Lara Brown at George Washington University has studied political scandals.

LARA BROWN: Voters care about character, but they really can only afford to care about character in a primary election because in general elections, they are focused on issues.

KEITH: Which is why in the Alabama race, President Trump and Roy Moore are putting so much emphasis on things like abortion and the Second Amendment and telling voters in the Republican-majority state that they face a binary choice. Even Mitch McConnell, who had called on Moore to drop out, is now saying simply that the voters will decide. Tamara Keith, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.