WASHINGTON ― A top White House official on Sunday avoided answering the question ― 15 times ― as to whether President Donald Trump supports Alabama GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by seven women.
Marc Short, the White House director of legislative affairs, said on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” that Trump thinks it would be “disqualifying” for Moore if the allegations that he routinely sought sexual relationships with teenage girls are true. But he repeatedly ducked questions about whether Trump thinks the women’s accusations are credible.
“Does the president believe them?” Stephanopoulos asked.
“We are uncomfortable with the explanations Roy Moore has given to date,” Short said. “At this point, we think, though, it’s best for the people of Alabama that all the information is in front of them for them to make the decision.”
“But I’m asking you a direct question on behalf of the president,” Stephanopoulos tried again. “You work for the president. Does the president believe the women or not?”
“He has concerns about the accusations, but he is also concerned that these accusations are 38 years old,” Short said. “Roy Moore has been in public service for decades, and the accusations did not arise until a month before the election.”
“So you’re not willing to make a yes or no judgment on whether the president believes the women?” Stephanopoulos asked.
“I think I have answered your questions three times now,” Short said.
“No, you have said you have questions and concerns,” Stephanopoulos replied.
This back-and-forth exchange played out a total of 15 times as Stephanopoulos tried to get Short to clarify whether Trump is backing Moore ahead of his Dec. 12 special election against Democrat Doug Jones. At one point, Short said Trump would be campaigning for Moore if he didn’t believe the women. But soon after that he said nobody really knows who is telling the truth.
“If dating a 14-year-old ― and you have used the word pedophilia in the past ― is disqualifying, it comes down to a matter of whether or not you believe the women who made that allegation,” Stephanopoulos said.
“Sitting here 40 years after the fact, I cannot have any more information to tell you one way or the other,” Short replied. “There are two people who know that: Roy Moore and the accuser.”
The White House’s vagueness on whether Trump believes Moore’s accusers puts the president at odds with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who have said they believe the women.
Part of the reason it’s tricky for White House officials to talk about the allegations against Moore is because 16 women have accused Trump of sexual assault. The White House’s official position is that they are all lying.