In 1979, Roy Moore, then a 32-year-old assistant district attorney in Alabama, allegedly brought a 14-year-old girl to his home alone. She told The Post that Moore served her alcoholic drinks, kissed her and undressed her. Moore reportedly pursued relationships with three other teenagers between 16 and 18 during that same time period. Such predatory behavior is appalling from any quarter – particularly from a government official with great power in his community. It is especially egregious in a candidate for federal office. Yet Republican officials have yet to denounce the alleged conduct of Moore, the GOP’s nominee for senator from Alabama, as clearly beyond the pale.

The four women who spoke to The Post all described similar behavior from Moore, who flattered the teenagers before asking them out on dates or taking them to his house. Only one woman, Leigh Corfman, remembered the candidate as having initiated sexual contact beyond kissing. Corfman was 14 at the time, below Alabama’s age of consent at 16 — meaning Moore’s alleged actions would have broken state law. Moore’s campaign declares that “this garbage is the very definition of fake news.”

“Innocent until proven guilty is for criminal convictions, not elections,” former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney wrote, demanding that Moore withdraw from the race. “I believe Leigh Corfman.” Unfortunately, other members of Romney’s party lack this moral clarity. With some exceptions — including Sen. John McCain, Ariz., who likewise called for Mr. Moore to step aside — Republicans in Washington have hedged their condemnations. “If true, [the allegations] would disqualify anyone from serving in office,” a statement from Vice President Mike Pence’s office announced. “If these allegations are true, he must step aside,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., declared.

To be sure, the national Republican Party’s response has been less egregious than that of the Alabama GOP, many of whose officials have chosen to defend Moore. The party’s Senate fundraising wing has cut tieswith the Moore campaign. But “if true” is nothing more than a dodge if Republicans have no answer to what comes next. What more would they want to know in order to consider these allegations credible?

Republican support for Moore was pitiful even before this revelation, given his long record of contempt for the rule of law and for Americans who are different from him. In that light, maybe it should not surprise that leaders such as McConnell cannot bring themselves even now to clearly repudiate Moore. And yet surprise it does.

“If true” is not enough. These women had nothing to gain and much to lose by coming forward. Now their word is questioned – and for what? To save a business tax cut?

Editorial by The Washington Post

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.