The Miami Herald: Men in power, keep your hands, and other parts, to yourself

Senate Leader Mitch McConnell is right — Roy Moore should quit the race for the U.S. Senate.

Moore is the Alabama candidate who has been credibly accused by several women of sexual misconduct. So far, five women have said that when they were young teenagers, and Moore was a full-grown adult in his 30s, he pursued them aggressively, sometimes violently, and unsolicited. Monday, Beverly Young Nelson accused Moore of sexually assaulting her when she was 16, the most damning allegation against him so far.

Moore remains unbowed. He denies the allegations, blaming political enemies and, it goes without saying, the media. Fellow Republicans — who have tolerated and excused all manner of bad behavior as long as the miscreants were on their side of the aisle — are apoplectic this time, and looking for an out.

As with the allegations tumbling out of the film industry, where powerful men who sexually harass or assault young women is an open secret, sooooo many people say that they knew Moore, once a district attorney, then a controversial chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, had a taste for underage girls. There were rumors, but little challenge.

Moore has not been charged with anything, much less been found guilty. But he refuses to responsibly address what seems a well-known pattern of conduct. He has no place in the U.S. Capitol (more on that later). It has yet to be confirmed that in the 1980s, Moore was banned from a local mall because he repeatedly tried to pick up teenage girls. Still, police officers, local attorneys, and mall employees from that time seemed aware that he was persona non grata.

Moore has ardent defenders — people of faith, people seeking political advantage, people who consider a girl of 14 a consenting adult. It is no wonder that girls of that age are shamed and intimidated into silence.

Fake news, sadly, is giving Moore cover. As reported — and debunked — by Politifact, one website features the provocative headline: “Second Roy Moore Accuser works for Michelle Obama right now.” This is “pants on fire” nonsense.

And while McConnell is standing up for Moore’s accusers — “I believe the women, yes” — he can’t ignore what’s happening in his own back yard. According to two former legislative staffers writing in the Washington Post, “Capitol Hill has a problem.” Men — lawmakers — behaving badly toward the women who work for them is a bipartisan curse, they say.

“Capitol Hill is still a man’s world. Female staff, and even female members, often shrug off inappropriate behavior to avoid being labeled troublemakers,” write Kristin Nicholson and Travis Moore. Also, “Staffers who do decide to pursue a complaint face an opaque and burdensome process.” one, they say, that discourages coming forward.

Congresswomen recently backed up claims of sexual harassment in comments before the House Administration Committee’s hearing to review the chamber’s sexual-misconduct policy. The gory details are too familiar: Sitting congressmen who grope young women, who expose their genitals to them — Why? Why? — and ask unwanted intrusive personal questions.

They want the House and Senate to adopt mandatory, in-person sexual-harassment prevention training for all members and staffers, and clarity on what are grounds for punishment or dismissal. If Moore is elected, and he shouldn’t be, the imperative to address this scourge will become even more urgent.