On Friday, two separate quotes from embattled Alabama Senate Republican candidate Roy Moore began making the rounds. The first concerned slavery; the second concerned America’s place in the world.
According to The Los Angeles Times, back in September, Moore was asked by a black audience member about the last time America was great. Moore answered, “I think it was great at the time when families were united — even though we had slavery — they cared for one another. … Our families were strong, our country had a direction.” Now, we don’t have full tape of the quote. Those ellipses could be doing a lot of work. But taken at face value, this is insane — the last time America was great was when black people were in chains because at least families were together? That’s not just morally obtuse, it’s historically incoherent: slave-owners routinely divided families, and family breakdown really commenced in the United States in the 1960s.
Then there are Moore’s comments about American evil.
Back during the summer, The Guardian interviewed Moore. They asked him about Ronald Reagan’s statement that the Soviet Union was “the focus of evil in the modern world.” Moore answered thusly: “You could say that very well about America, couldn’t you? We promote a lot of bad things.” When asked which bad things, Moore cited same-sex marriage. When the interviewer said that Vladimir Putin made a similar argument, Moore said, “Well, then maybe Putin is right. Maybe he’s more akin to me than I know.”
This quote is likely to have little impact among conservatives who embraced President Trump after Trump said that the United States killed people just as Putin does. Twice.
Moore won’t be damaged by these statements not because they’re acceptable, but because he benefits from the halo effect of having been targeted by the media for years on end. That means that his supporters are likely to ignore any information the media report that targets him now — they simply assume that such reports are badly motivated, and thus untrustworthy.