RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
The Republican National Committee has changed its mind. And now the RNC says it is supporting Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore. You may remember last month the RNC announced that it was severing ties with Moore following at least one allegation of sexual abuse against him, several other accusations of trying to engage sexually with teenage girls when he was in his 30s. Now an RNC official confirms to NPR it is in fact restoring its financial support to his campaign. We're going to bring in NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith, who's been following all this.
TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Good morning.
MARTIN: The RNC's decision came just hours after President Trump explicitly endorsed Roy Moore for the first time since the sexual abuse allegations came to light. So did Donald Trump make the difference here?
KEITH: Yes. It is not a coincidence that the RNC shifted its position very shortly after President Trump shifted his position. Now, I will say though that President Trump has always been a little softer on the Roy Moore issue than some other Republican leaders. Sort of the hardest line that Trump ever took came from his spokesperson, who said, quote, "if these allegations are true, Judge Moore will do the right thing and step aside." But President Trump at other times said, you know, we have to listen to Moore and Moore denies it.
Now, of course, the president is explicitly endorsing Moore. And here's another thing that's probably not a coincidence. There's a lot of polling that, you know, initially, Moore was taking a real hit and it looked like the Democrat Doug Jones could win.
KEITH: Well, now it looks much more likely that Moore could win. Some recent polling shows him ahead.
MARTIN: So this is just kind of a jumping on the bandwagon. If Moore's going to win, Republicans don't want to be seen as being out of step with Alabama voters. Do you think you're going to see - we're going to see other Republicans who have previously distanced themselves from Moore, are they going to start to support him again?
KEITH: Well, here's an example. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader who has been no fan of Moore even before these allegations came out, had previously said Moore should step aside, that he believed the women that the charges were credible. Well, now he's saying the people of Alabama are going to decide. And it's really up to them and that they will swear in whoever is elected. So that is an evolution. You know, one interesting thing here is the RNC itself has been very hard on Democrats for their association with Harvey Weinstein, who was accused of assault and other terrible things.
They even put out some web videos sort of encouraging - pushing Democrats to give back Weinstein's money.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I mean, this is a pretty bad guy who did some really awful things.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: It is not to be accepted by us.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: People that took money from him should probably give it back.
KEITH: Now, these are not exactly equivalent things. But the RNC is now giving money to a candidate who is accused of some pretty terrible things.
MARTIN: Right. So this does feel to have similarities to the "Access Hollywood" video and that video's role in the presidential election - right? - because it was important until it wasn't anymore.
KEITH: Right. And Republicans really see themselves, it seems, as having a binary choice here, which is sort of the choice that was set up by President Trump in his campaign about a year ago. And what Senator Orrin Hatch, who's a Republican from Utah, said yesterday - and I think this is pretty clearly where a lot of Republicans heads are. He says, I don't think that the president had any choice but to endorse Moore. That's the only Republican we can get down there.
MARTIN: Meanwhile, at least two sitting members of Congress are dealing with the fallout from sexual harassment claims. Congressman John Conyers, in particular, has faced strong calls for him to step down. Now I understand news today he may do that?
KEITH: He is set to make an announcement later this morning. A relative of his has told The New York Times that he is not resigning but does plan to retire at the end of his term.
MARTIN: NPR's Tamara Keith. Thanks so much, Tam.
KEITH: You're welcome.
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