Next week, President Trump will meet with Roy Moore, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Alabama who has a long history of anti-LGBTQ statements on gay marriage, homosexuality, religious freedom, and a host of other issues.
The president told reporters of his plans during a Monday press conference with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), in response to a reporter’s questions about how they could support Moore, given his past controversial comments, which some have described as bigoted.
“I’m going to be meeting with Roy sometime next week and we’re going to talk to him about a lot of different things, but I’ll be meeting with him,” Trump said. “He ran a very strong race.”
McConnell did not answer the reporter’s question.
Both Trump and McConnell were embarrassed late last month when their preferred pick, incumbent Sen. Luther Strange, the former state attorney general appointed to the seat by disgraced Gov. Robert Bentley, fell to Moore in the runoff for the Republican primary.
“The people of Alabama, who I like very much and they like me very much — But they like Roy, and we’ll be talking to him and I can report to you then, OK?” Trump added before moving on to another question.
Due to his partisan affiliation, Moore is heavily favored in the Nov. 12 election over Democratic nominee Doug Jones, who has been endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign for his support for LGBTQ rights. But recent polling shows Moore receiving less than 50 percent of the vote, and Jones outperforming the level of support that Democrats typically enjoy in statewide races in Alabama — a rare political occurrence.
Moore is famous — or infamous, depending on your political leanings — for his two stints as Alabama’s Chief Supreme Court Justice. His first term, from 2001 to 2003, ended after he was removed from the bench for violating a federal court order to remove a religious monument to the Ten Commandments from the Alabama Judicial Building.
After winning a second term less than a decade later in 2012, Moore again courted controversy by ordering probate judges to ignore the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Obergefell case legalizing marriage equality and telling them that Alabama’s statutory ban on same-sex marriage remained in effect. He was later found guilty of violating judicial ethics and suspended for the remainder of his six-year term.
Due to state laws governing the age of judges, Moore is unable to run for his old seat, but the U.S. Senate offers him another chance to stay in the political arena and the national spotlight as one of the country’s most outspoken advocates for socially conservative public policies.
Only a handful of members of Congress have endorsed Moore, the most recent being Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah). Others publicly backing Moore include McConnell, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), and U.S. Reps. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) and Jody Hice (R-Ga.).
Even though the list of sitting congressmen backing him is small, earning the backing of Trump and McConnell signals that the GOP is circling the wagons around Moore for what promises to be a tougher-than-usual race for a Republican seeking office in Alabama.