Roy Moore, a former Alabama judge and top contender to fill Jeff Sessions’ vacant seat, said the Russian leader could be ‘more akin to me than I know’
Roy Moore, the controversial former judge and a leading contender in Alabama’s Senate race, has said “maybe Putin is right” and “more akin to me than I know” given the Russian leader’s stance on gay marriage.
Moore, who was propelled to fame in 2001 over his refusal to remove a monument to the Ten Commandments that he’d installed in state courthouse, is a leading contender to fill the vacancy left by Donald Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions.
Several polls have indicated Moore could have the edge in the Republican primary, which will be held next Tuesday, although the president’s endorsement this week of another candidate, Luther Strange, could change that dynamic.
In an interview with the Guardian’s Anywhere But Washington series, Moore also said that Ronald Reagan’s famous declaration about the Soviet Union being “the focus of evil in the modern world” might today be applied to the US.
“You could say that about America, couldn’t you?” he said. “We promote a lot of bad things.” Asked for an example, he replied: “Same-sex marriage.”
When it was pointed out to Moore that his arguments on gay rights and morality were the same as those of the Russian leader, he replied: “Well, maybe Putin is right.” He added: “Maybe he’s more akin to me than I know.”
There is growing concern among Republican elites about the rising popularity of Putin among some conservatives. The party’s leaders remain steadfastly opposed to Putin, and recently forced Trump to reluctantly pass new sanctions against Russia. But the rank-and-file’s stance appears to be softening; polls suggest that Putin’s favorability ratings among Republicans have steadily increased in recent years.
Trump’s repeated declarations of admiration for Putin provide some explanation for the trend, but others have pointed out that the growing affinity between the evangelical wing of the GOP and Putin’s Russin has in fact been brewing of several years.
The Russian leader has rebranded himself a traditionalist during his third term, and his clampdown against what he calls “homosexual propaganda” in schools has been met with approval among some Christians in the US.
They include the son of the televangelist Billy Graham, Franklin Graham, who delivered a prayer at Trump’s inauguration, and has in the past praised Putin for “protecting Russian young people against homosexual propaganda”.
Moore, who was forced from his job as chief justice after the Ten Commandments controversy in 2003, was later re-elected to serve as chief justice. His second stint as Alabama’s most senior judge also ended in controversy, after he was suspended in 2016 for refusing to obey the supreme court’s ruling on same sex marriage.
If no candidates gets 50% in next week’s primary, the Republican party’s nominee will be decided in a September runoff. In such a conservative state as Alabama, the GOP primary will almost certainly determine who the state’s eventual senator is, as Democrats have next to no chance of winning the wider vote in December.
In his interview with the Guardian, Moore repeated his belief that Trump was put in the White House by God. “Everybody else thinks it’s the Russians,” he said. “I think it was the providential hand of God.”
An earlier version of this article incorrectly said the Republican primary will be held next Thursday.