Alabama senator-elect Doug Jones said on Dec. 17 that it was time to "move on" from the sexual misconduct allegations against President Trump. (Trump has denied all accusations.) Given that his opponent Roy Moore stood accused of sexual misconduct, the winner of Alabama's special election undoubtedly benefited from this #MeToo moment of consequences, so his remarks came as a surprise to many. On Thursday, Jones explained that the sexual assault allegations against Trump were something "everybody needs to pay attention" to.
During his appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers, Jones responded to a direct question about his remark on Trump. "I wasn’t really talking about moving on from those allegations,” Jones explained, highlighting his campaign's focus on women's empowerment issues. "We’ve truly reached a tipping point... where women who have been abused and felt abused can now stand up, speak out. That is what I have been for all along.”
But then Jones seemed to reiterate what he had said previously about handling allegations against the president. He noted the voters of Alabama had put him in office to focus on "kitchen table issues" — and that's what he wants to do. "But that doesn’t by any stretch mean that I don’t think that those [sexual misconduct] issues and those women who have made those allegations aren’t important," he added.
Jones seemed to be clarifying that while the allegations against Trump are worthy of attention, his focus in Washington, D.C., will be on legislative efforts focused on jobs, health care, and education, not prosecuting a sexual assault case against the president.
The uniqueness of Trump's situation has not gone unnoticed. While dozens of high-profile men have lost their jobs after allegations of sexual misconduct went public, the president has thus far escaped similar widespread pressure to resign.
Jones provided his answer to that seeming disparity back on Dec. 17. When CNN host Jake Tapper asked Jones to explain why he had called for Sen. Al Franken to resign, but had not asked the same of Trump. (Franken has been accused by eight women of inappropriate behavior, including groping, and has announced his intention to resign.) Jones said the difference was that allegations against Trump were known prior to the American people voting, and so that had provided a kind of answer to their importance.
It's a line of reasoning also argued by White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders. “The people of this country, at a decisive election, supported President Trump, and we feel like these allegations have been answered through that process," she said on Dec. 11.
Some have taken real issue with this particular argument, saying it leaves the judgment of claims from mostly female victims in the court of public opinion. Luke Darby wrote at GQ, "For a lot of women—and people who just believe women shouldn't be terrorized—sexual harassment is a "real issue," regardless of whether or not the harasser wins an election after the fact."
It seemed an especially strange argument coming from Jones, whose opponent, Roy Moore, came into election night damaged by allegations of sexual misconduct. The women who spoke out against Moore undoubtedly contributed to Jones' special election Senate win in Alabama, but their stories would not have become suddenly irrelevant or unimportant had Moore won — a not un-thinkable outcome given the close victory margin.
Jones tried to amend his comments with Seth Meyers on Thursday, and emphasized that indeed "everybody" should listen up when women allege sexual misconduct by men. And that includes paying attention to the women who have something to say about Trump, regardless of his presidential status.