Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley’s campaign and Missouri Democrats have been trading barbs after President Donald Trump’s decision to endorse Alabama candidate Roy Moore despite multiple allegations of sexual misconduct with teenage girls.
Moore, a former judge and conservative firebrand, has been engulfed in controversy since November after multiple women stepped forward to accuse the Alabama Republican of engaging in sexual behavior toward them when they were under the age of 18.
Despite the allegations, Trump endorsed Moore on Monday ahead of next week’s special election. His endorsement of Moore comes less than a week after Trump endorsed Hawley for next year’s U.S. Senate election in Missouri and promised to campaign for the Missouri Republican.
Hawley, the top law enforcement officer in Missouri, is seeking the Republican nomination to take on Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill. The Missouri Democratic Party has called on Hawley to respond to Trump’s decision to endorse Moore so quickly after endorsing him.
“Is Josh Hawley comfortable being associated with someone accused of sexual abuse with young women? Is he comfortable standing with those accused of sexual misconduct and assault?” the party said Monday in a news release shortly after Trump’s endorsement of Moore. “Why has he refused to unequivocally denounce Roy Moore?”
The party took another jab at Hawley Tuesday after the Republican National Committee’s decision to reenter a fundraising agreement with Moore after severing ties with the embattled candidate last month.
“Hawley needs to immediately answer whether he stands with Roy Moore — who has allegedly sexually assaulted women as young as 14 and co-authored a course saying women should not run for office — or women,” the Tuesday statement said. “The choice really is that simple, and the people of Missouri deserve to know where Josh Hawley stands.”
Moore has denied the allegations and initially denied even knowing his accusers, but several of women have produced evidence of their contact with the candidate during their youth, including this week when one of his accusers produced a graduation card Moore signed for her when she was 17 and he was 34.
Hawley called the allegations and corroborating evidence against Moore “incredibly disturbing” in a statement last month. “Unless he can give rock solid evidence that these claims are false, he should get out of the race,” Hawley said at the time.
However, Hawley’s campaign brushed off the Democrats’ demand that he weigh in on Trump’s decision to endorse Moore and took aim at U.S. Sen. Al Franken, a Minnesota Democrat who headlined a fundraiser for the Missouri state party last month before being accused of groping multiple women.
“Attacking President Trump with money raised from serial groper Al Franken is a new low. The Democrats need to do the right thing: return the money and call on him to resign,” Kelli Ford, Hawley’s campaign spokeswoman, said in an email.
Franken spoke at the Missouri Democratic Party’s annual Truman dinner but did not donate any money directly to the state party, according to Sam Newton, the party’s spokesman. McCaskill has donated $30,000 she received from Franken’s political action committee over multiple election cycles to the Missouri Food Bank.
Meira Bernstein, a Democratic spokeswoman authorized to speak for McCaskill’s campaign, said in an email that “it is appalling that Josh Hawley cares more about the (R) next to Roy Moore’s name than the fact that Moore allegedly assaulted a 14-year-old girl and co-authored a course saying that women should not run for office.”
Trump has also been accused of sexual misconduct by 16 women and was caught on an audiotape making comments about grabbing women in 2005 while filming a segment for Access Hollywood. Trump has denied the allegations and threatened to sue his accusers, but so far has taken no legal action against them.