Republicans are keeping Roy Moore and his controversial views at arm’s length

I don’t know him, I don’t know him,” said Sen. (R-Ohio).

“I haven’t taken a deep dive into his record,” said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

“Let’s give him a chance,” said Sen. (R-N.D.).

For most Republicans, Roy Moore’s run for Senate in Alabama is a subject best avoided.

Before winning Tuesday night’s primary runoff to replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the former judge was best known for his views that homosexuality should be illegal, that Muslims should not be allowed in Congress and that the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, were God’s punishment for Americans’ sins.

Yet in interviews since Moore’s win, almost no elected Republican has criticized Moore or his views. They dodged most questions about him, but said they’d be eager to accept him as a fellow legislator on issues like health care and tax cuts. Moore, a well-known ideologue, had suddenly become a blank slate.

“Obviously, there are a lot of things that get said by different candidates,” said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, in a Thursday interview on MSNBC. “I am certainly supporting him, and happy to have him in the Senate.”

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said Moore would fit fine within Senate Republicans’ “broad spectrum of opinion and ideology” but also cautioned against prejudging Moore based on media coverage of his beliefs.

“I have found, coming here to Washington, you see there’s an awful lot of stereotypes of individuals,” he said. “How the press portrays them is not necessarily the individual that they are.”

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) the only Republican lawmaker to criticize Moore, did so tepidly.

“I’m obviously not enamored with his politics because that’s not the future of the Republican Party, that’s for sure,” Flake told Politico.

The arm’s-length treatment of Moore, who Republicans worried would embarrass the party, stands in contrast with how other far-right candidates have been handled. In September, North Carolina Republicans condemned a fringe candidate for mayor of Charlotte who listed being “white” as one of her qualifications. In May, after Montana congressional candidate Greg Gianforte body-slammed a reporter, a number of Republicans condemned his conduct. (Gianforte won the election, then went to court.)



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