Washington • Two days after Sen. Orrin Hatch backed President Donald Trump’s endorsement of Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore because he had “no choice,” the Utah Republican said he was “deeply disturbed” by allegations of Moore dating teenage girls as an adult.
Hatch said Monday, fresh off of riding on Air Force One with Trump, that the president’s endorsement of Moore — who has come under fire by several women who said he, as a man in his 30s, aggressively courted them as teens — was necessary.
“I don’t think he had any choice but to do that,” Hatch said on the tarmac of Joint Base Andrews after alighting from the president’s plane. “He needs every Republican he can get, so he can put his agenda through. So that’s the only possible Republican you can get down there.”
Hatch added, when pressed about which line the GOP should take with the allegations against Moore: “That’s a decision that has to be made by the people in that state. If they make that decision, who are we to question ’em?”
Hatch added at the time: “Many of the things that he allegedly did were decades ago.”
On Wednesday night, during a tele-town hall, Hatch appeared to backtrack, noting that he wanted to be “very clear from the outset” that he has not endorsed Moore.
“I do not intend to, and I believe the allegations against him are incredibly serious,” Hatch said, according to his office.
Hatch had endorsed the appointed Sen. Luther Strange originally and said Wednesday that he still has concerns about Moore, who was twice removed by federal order from the Alabama Supreme Court for refusing to acknowledge rulings on same-sex marriage.
Hatch, the longest serving Republican in the Senate, pointed out that he likes Luther and has been “deeply disturbed by the accusations made against Roy Moore.”
“I was one of the first in the Senate to urge Roy Moore to step aside and to urge Alabamans to consider an alternative,” Hatch said. “But I’ve also said that in the end, the decision is in the hands of the people of Alabama.
“Now, that being said, serving in the Senate is a privilege, and here, we hold our members to the highest ethical standards,” Hatch continued. “And I expect any of my colleagues to adhere to those standards.”
The Utah Republican said that if Moore is elected, an ethics investigation awaits.
“Should Moore win, the majority leader [Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.] has said that the Senate will hold an ethics investigation, and I expect that to be thorough,” Hatch said.