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GOP Women Confront Sexual Misbehavior By Politicians


Now we're going to talk to Katie Packer Beeson. She was Mitt Romney's deputy campaign manager, and she has written a lot about the allegations against Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore. She's with us from Colorado. Thanks for coming on the show.

KATIE PACKER BEESON: Thanks for having me, Kelly.

MCEVERS: So as we just heard, Senator Al Franken resigned today because of multiple sexual harassment allegations against him. He also said he found it ironic that he has to leave the Senate while Donald Trump, who has been recorded bragging about grabbing women by their genitals, quote, "sits in the Oval Office" and Roy Moore, who has been accused of preying on young girls, still has the full support of the Republican Party. This is a quote from Senator Franken. I mean, do you think he has a point?

BEESON: Well, there certainly is some irony, and I won't argue with that. I would argue with the contention that Roy Moore has the full support of the Republican Party. Most of the Republican senators in the U.S. Senate have declined to support him and have spoken out aggressively against him. So I do think that this is an issue where there's some division on the Republican side. And there are people that are frustrated that the president seems to have gotten away with some of the same kind of behavior. Unfortunately there's not a whole lot you can do if people just aren't willing to feel shame and do the right thing.

MCEVERS: You know, you talk about how there's a split in the Republican Party. And I understand what you're saying. But I mean, the general sense is that Republicans are moving away from criticizing Moore, that the criticism came early, and now some people are just sort of staying quiet. It's a similar thing we saw happen with Trump frankly just before the election - lots of criticism at first, then everybody just kind of gets quiet. I mean, how do you square that? How do you talk to your Republican colleagues about that?

BEESON: Well, I'm trying to not look at this as a partisan issue. And I'd like to see it not be weaponized by either side in attacking their opponents for political gain. I would like to have sort of a standard that says Republican or Democrat, people that prey on women, particularly people that prey on children, should not be welcome in the United States Congress and that there should be some standard that people are held to.

Unfortunately this slippery slope began when the Democrats nominated and helped elect Bill Clinton, somebody that's accused of a lot of these things. And what that did is it allowed Donald Trump during his campaign to sort of whitewash the issue and say, wait; don't look at me. Look at my opponent. These people aren't to be trusted. You know, he denied the allegations, and then he turned the tables on his opponent and said, look at her husband, and look at what she did to attack the women that attacked him. And then he created this environment, you know, calling every story he didn't like fake news. And Roy Moore has really just launched the same playbook as Donald Trump.

MCEVERS: Yeah. You're someone who pays a lot of attention to polls, right? How are Republican women responding to this time, this time of accusations and resignations?

BEESON: Well, it's very tough to put all Republican women in the same sort of bucket. There are a lot of Republican women who are strict watchers of Fox News and listen to Rush Limbaugh, and they really buy into the notion that a lot of this is fake news. And it's sad. I think it's, you know, a level of brainwashing that's occurred. But it's resulted in a lot of Republican women standing up for somebody like Roy Moore.

But I'm pleased to see that in the state of Alabama, many of the Republican women's organizations down there have spoken out very aggressively against Moore and said this isn't acceptable. So there are factions within the Republican Party that are saying this isn't acceptable and aren't willing to follow the president's lead on this.

MCEVERS: Katie Packer Beeson is a Republican strategist who was deputy campaign manager for Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign. Thank you very much.

BEESON: Thanks. Take care. Bye-bye. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.