Coburn `troubled' by treatment of candidate
A former U.S. senator from Oklahoma and endorser of controversial Senate candidate Roy Moore says he's concerned that the Alabama Republican is being unfairly tried in the court of public opinion.
Moore, 70, stands accused of dating or having sexual contact with five teenage girls when he was a prosecutor in his 30s, including two girls who were 14 and 16 years old at the time. The retired judge, who has denied the allegations, faces Democrat Doug Jones in a Dec. 12 special election.
Former Sen. Tom Coburn, the only Oklahoman to formally endorse Moore, said in an email Saturday that if the allegations are true, “he should drop out,” and if they are false, they are “pretty expedient slander for our political process.”
On Tuesday, Coburn wrote back to say: “I am really troubled by this.”
“He may be guilty of what people are claiming,” Coburn said. “But what if he is not? Seems this is rule of rulers instead of rule of law. I thought you were to get a fair trial of your peers instead of trial in the press. What has happened to us?”
Sen. James Lankford, ROkla., suggested Tuesday that Moore should consider ending his campaign.
“Sen. Lankford believes that allegations of harassment, exploitation, and inappropriate relationships with minors must be taken very seriously,” said his spokesman, D.J. Jordan. “Lankford believes that if Judge Moore cannot defend himself against these accusations, then he should end his campaign.”
Last week, both Lankford and Oklahoma's other senator, Jim Inhofe, said Moore should drop out if guilty. Inhofe's position has not changed, a spokeswoman said Tuesday. The Tulsa Republican told reporters Friday that the accusations had “partisan rings” to them but that Moore, if guilty, should step aside.
“If he's guilty at all, we will figure out some way or should figure out some way to make sure he is not our nominee,” Inhofe said. “I think everybody's in agreement. I heard a statement that was made by Richard Shelby — he is the senior senator from Alabama, and he's a Republican — and he said, as I'm saying, that if there's any truth to that, we've got to get rid of that guy.”
Last week, many of Moore's fellow Republicans in the Senate took a wait-and-see approach, saying he should step aside only if the accusations are true. This week, some have changed their statements following a news conference from a fifth accuser and further suggestions that Moore dated teenagers while a prosecutor in the late 1970s and 1980s.