Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain called on Roy Moore to exit Alabama’s U.S. Senate race the very day The Washington Post published its story alleging the candidate engaged in sexual misconduct in the late 1970s.
However, McCain sang a different tune during his 2008 presidential when the senator faced his own accusations of sexual misconduct with a lobbyist 30 years his junior.
McCain was among the very first of the so called “establishment Republicans” to rush to judgment concerning the allegations against Moore, characterizing them as “disqualifying” and declaring that the candidate should “immediately step aside and allow the people of Alabama to elect a candidate they can be proud of.”
Former Massachusetts governor and 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who campaigned for McCain in 2008 after losing to him in Republican primary, joined in the following day, tweeting, “innocent until proven guilty is for criminal convictions.”
In February 2008, The Post and The New York Times published stories alleging McCain had had an improper relationship with lobbyist Vicki Iseman. The stories both related that the senator had developed a close relationship with the lobbyist who had business before the Commerce Committee, which he chaired.
The Times’ story also suggested his staff was concerned the relationship with Iseman had turned romantic, given the amount of time the two were spending together. The lobbyist has a strong resemblance to McCain’s wife Cindy.
Iseman was in her early 30s when the relationship began in the late 1990s, and McCain was in his early 60s. Both McCain and Iseman denied any affair.
McCain began a romantic relationship with Cindy while he was still married to his first wife Carol, according to FactCheck.org. A month after divorcing Carol, he married Cindy, when she was 25 and he was 43.
The severity of the allegations against McCain regarding Iseman were clear. He was potentially using his position in government to do favors for someone, who was at least his friend. At worst, she was his mistress and the senator was engaging in public corruption.
Clearly these allegations would be “disqualifying” not just for any seeking the highest office in the land, but for serving in the senate — if true.
The U.K. Telegraph reported at the time in a piece titled “John McCain sex claim hits US election” that “the revelations about Mr. McCain are unlikely to prevent him wrapping up his party’s nomination in the next few weeks, but could affect his standing against his Democratic opponent.”
The Iseman accusations likely hit too close to home for McCain. The senator had been listed among the “Keating Five” senators, who allegedly engaged in public corruption in support of lobbyist Charles Keating in the late 1980s.
The Times included the Keating Five connection in its story, noting the scandal nearly ended McCain’s career.
After the piece was published, McCain’s campaign team swiftly issued a statement describing the story as “gutter politics,” and clearly part of a “hit and run smear campaign.”
“Neither Senator McCain nor the campaign will dignify false rumors and gossip by responding to them. John McCain has never done favors for anyone, not lobbyists or any special interest. That’s a clear 24-year record,” a top campaign adviser added, according to The Post.
The Post and The Times’ stories seemingly added credibility to allegations of the senator’s past conduct, but even then, there were no widespread calls for him to “step aside” based on the allegations alone.
Iseman would later sue The Times for libel. The case was settled in 2009 after the presidential election, with no payment to the lobbyist, as well as the paper not retracting the story.
Moore has categorically denied the central allegation of The Post story that he engaged in inappropriate sexual touching with a minor in 1979. The candidate has described the story as a political hit piece meant to hurt his candidacy weeks before the general election.
At a campaign event on Saturday, Moore noted The Post had endorsed his opponent and published a series of attack articles against him and his wife regarding their public interest non-profit firm, The Foundation for Moral Law. “But we endured that,” he said.
“The Washington Post published yet another attack on my character and reputation in a desperate attempt to stop my political campaign for the United States Senate,” he said. “The attacks involve a minor and they are completely false.”
The former Alabama chief justice went on to note he has undergone multiple statewide elections and investigations into his background in order to serve and while serving on the bench.
AL.com reported that the candidate plans to sue The Post over the story.
In a radio interview with Sean Hannity on Friday, Moore said if a candidate were to follow the calls of McCain and others to “step aside” based on an allegation, there would be no point for anyone to seek political office.
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