Fox News host Sean Hannity has given up defending Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore of Alabama, telling viewers Tuesday night the judge has “24 hours” to explain conflicting answers to the sexual misconduct allegations against him.
Hannity’s escalated remarks came days after critics bashed the conservative host for appearing to defend Moore and suggesting that the accusations against him might be false. The wave of criticism prompted coffeemaker company Keurig and other sponsors to say they would no longer be advertising on Hannity’s Fox News show.
During a Thursday radio show, Hannity asked how one could “possibly tell, know the truth.” He appeared to imply that the alleged encounters were “consensual,” but later apologized and said he misspoke.
Speaking on his Fox News broadcast Thursday night, Hannity said “every single person in this country deserves the presumption of innocence” and that “none of us knows the truth of what happened 38 years ago.”
In an exchange with Hannity on his radio show Friday, Moore did not outright deny dating teenagers when he was in his 30s. When asked if he remembered “dating girls that young at that time” Moore responded “not generally, no,” and said he did not recall ever dating any girl without the permission of the mother.
Tuesday, a day after another woman went public in a news conference with accusations against Moore, Hannity seemed to change his tune.
Moore’s answers, Hannity said, now seemed “inconsistent.”
“You know I do not and will never rush to judgment, because we have seen the media and politicians get it wrong so many times,” he said. But Moore’s conflicting accounts demanded a full explanation, he said.
Two women have accused Moore of initiating sexual contact with them when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s. Leigh Corfman told The Washington Post that she was 14 when Moore — then an assistant district attorney in Alabama — took her to his house and touched her sexually. Beverly Young Nelson said at a news conference Monday that she was 16 when Moore sexually assaulted her and bruised her neck. Three other women interviewed by The Post said Moore pursued them when they were between the ages of 16 and 18 and he was in his early 30s.
Moore has denied the sexual misconduct allegations. He said that he does not know Nelson. But in the Monday news conference, Nelson displayed a 1977 high school yearbook with Moore’s signature.
“The American people deserve a hundred percent truth and honesty,” Hannity said. “We need correct answers the first time on issues this serious. Judge Moore you owe that to the people of Alabama, the Republican Party that you represent and to the country which is suffering under so many problems. We deserve answers, consistent answers, and truth.”
Hannity’s comments came as a growing list of national Republican leaders continued to speak out against Moore. On Tuesday, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called on Moore to drop out of the race. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he had “no reason to doubt” Moore’s accusers.
Still, Republican officials in Alabama are standing by Moore and voicing skepticism about the allegations. Indeed, some of Moore’s supporters on Twitter expressed disappointment — and even a feeling of betrayal — over Hannity’s remarks Tuesday night.
I don’t believe it. Hannity just sold Judge Moore down the river. Nothing proven. So disappointed in Hannity right now.— Marilyn (@mekumpf) November 15, 2017
Some of Moore’s supporters on Twitter blamed the advertising boycott for Hannity’s sudden change of tune.
A slew of companies — including Realtor.com, Volvo Car USA, Nature’s Bounty, Eloquii, and 23 and Me — have suggested on Twitter in recent days that they would be pulling ads from Hannity’s show.
But some of those companies later walked back on their Twitter messages.
Realtor.com, which initially tweeted it would not be running TV ads on Hannity, later removed its tweet. The company said in a statement it will actually continue advertising on Fox News and its top shows.
Volvo Car USA reportedly tweeted it had advised its media agency to stop advertising on the show. But the tweet has since been deleted.
After Keurig tweeted that it would be removing ads from Hannity’s show, fans of the Fox News host called for a boycott of Keurig products. Videos of Hannity supporters smashing Keurig machines to pieces in protest went viral.
But then, in an internal email to colleagues, Keurig chief executive Bob Gamgort said the announcement was done outside of company protocols. Publicly communicating this decision on Twitter was “highly unusual,” he said, apologizing for “any negativity” that resulted from the move.
“This gave the appearance of ‘taking sides’ in an emotionally charged debate that escalated on Twitter and beyond over the weekend, which was not our intent,” the letter read. “Clearly, this is an unacceptable situation that requires an overhaul of our issues response and external communications policies and the introduction of safeguards to ensure this never happens again.”
Following Gamgort’s apology, Hannity on Monday night told his viewers to “stop smashing your Keurig” machines.
“Hold your fire please,” Hannity said. “In my opinion Keurig was a victim of a group with a radical agenda.”
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