Scott Olson/Getty Images(FAIRHOPE, Ala.) — Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon appeared alongside embattled GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore Tuesday night in Fairhope, Alabama, just a week ahead of the election.
In a fiery speech defending Moore, Bannon attacked the Republican establishment and questioned the timing of allegations brought against Moore by eight women who have accused him of sexual misconduct or inappropriate behavior toward them when he was in his 30s and, in some cases, when the women were in their teens. Moore has denied the allegations.
“Let’s be right, OK? This whole thing was a setup. This whole thing was weaponized, right?” Bannon said of the allegations of sexual misconduct first published by The Washington Post, “You know that. Folks down here in Alabama know that.”
Bannon also attacked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, who donated $100 to Moore’s Democratic opponent Doug Jones earlier Tuesday.
“Hey Flake, this is why your approval rating in your home state is, like, 11 percent,” Bannon said. “You’re a total embarrassment.”
But Bannon saved perhaps his more stinging attack for former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who he accused of hiding behind his religion to avoid service in the Vietnam War.
“Judge Moore served his country in one of the toughest wars we’ve ever had: Vietnam,” Bannon said, “Mitt, that’s honor and integrity. And by the way, Mitt, while we’re on the subject of Vietnam and honor and integrity, you avoided service, brother. OK Mitt, here’s how it is, brother. The college deferments — we can debate that, but you hid behind your religion. You went to France to be a missionary while guys were dying in rice patties in Vietnam. Do not talk to me about honor and integrity.”
Moore did not directly address the allegations against him, but did talk about the “battles” he has fought in the campaign.
“If you knew what kind of battles I’ve been fighting, you wouldn’t want to be where I am. In fact, if I wasn’t here, I wouldn’t want to fight these battles, but when God puts you there, you have nothing else to do but to stand,” Moore said.
Moore again cast the race as a chance for Alabama voters to reject the “establishment” and said the race was special because it is the first Senate race since the election of President Trump.
Moore sounded confident in his chances of victory on Dec. 12.
“I think they’re afraid that I’m going to take Alabama values to Washington,” he said. “And I want to tell you, I can’t wait.”
Bannon’s trip to the state comes at a crucial time in the campaign, and just a day after Trump officially endorsed Moore, calling the candidate personally and expressing “enthusiastic support” for Moore, according to a statement from the campaign.
Speaking on Tuesday at the White House, Trump reiterated his support for Moore.
“I think he’s going to do very well,” Trump said of Moore. “We do not want to have a liberal Democrat in Alabama. We want strong borders. We want stopping crime, we want to have the things that we represent and we certainly don’t want to have a liberal Democrat that is controlled by Nancy Pelosi and controlled by Chuck Schumer.”
Moore also got a boost Monday night, when an official with the Republican National Committee confirmed to ABC News that the organization is following Trump’s lead and supporting Moore’s candidacy.
“If I have to pick somebody to stand in the corner with Judge Moore, I pick Steve Bannon,” Moore campaign chief strategist Dean Young told ABC News last week. “The same Steve Bannon who stood in the corner with President Donald Trump and helped lead President Trump to victory.”
Most Republican senators have continued to keep their distance from Moore. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters Tuesday that he has not changed his position that Moore should get out of the race, and said that if elected, Moore may still face an ethics committee investigation.
“There’s been no change of heart,” McConnell said. “I had hoped earlier he would withdraw as a candidate. That obviously is not going to happen. If he were to be elected, he would immediately have an ethics committee case and the committee would take a look at the situation and give us advice.”
Other Republican senators have expressed their displeasure with Moore, but said the decision on whether or not he should be a U.S. senator is up to Alabama voters.
“Well, I am not a voter in the state of Alabama. So I don’t have a say in it. The voters in Alabama will determine that,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, told ABC News Tuesday. “I have not endorsed Mr. Moore and my hope is the voters of Alabama will do the right thing and not send him to the Senate.”
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who has not endorsed Moore, told reporters Monday of Trump’s decision to endorse the controversial candidate, “I don’t think he had any choice but to do that. You know, he needs every Republican he can get so he can put his agenda through. So that’s, you know, the only Republican you can possibly get down there at this time.”
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