If Kayla Moore was trying to convince the public that her husband Roy Moore is not an anti-Semite, she hardly could have done a worse job.
Her election eve comment — “One of our attorneys is a Jew” — became an instant punchline, summing up Republican Roy Moore’s long history of overt bigotry just hours before polls opened in Alabama’s U.S. Senate election.
Whether it was intentional is worthy of debate.
The predictable howls of outrage over Kayla Moore’s prepared remarks fit the deep-rooted tradition in American politics of stoking voter prejudice in the closing hours of a campaign.
It’s a tactic especially fraught in a state where Moore’s political base is not all that different from that of George Wallace, the Alabama governor who championed segregation in the 1960s.
Parallels between Moore and Wallace are all but impossible to avoid.
Moore’s Democratic rival, Doug Jones, is a former U.S. attorney who prosecuted two Ku Klux Klansmen for the killing of four girls in the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala.
Jones’ prospect of victory on Tuesday hinges on the support of thousands of African Americans who were still blocked from voting under the Jim Crow culture that Wallace fought to preserve.
Some Democrats say Republican efforts to suppress Alabama’s black vote Tuesday could help usher Moore into the Senate. Republicans deny any effort to discourage blacks from voting.
At a rally Monday night in Midland City, Ala., Kayla Moore faulted the news media and critics of her husband for the way they’ve characterized his remarks on Jews, African Americans and other minorities.
“Fake news would tell you that we don’t care for Jews,” she told supporters, reading from notes as Roy Moore stood behind her. “I tell you all of this because I’ve seen it all, so I just want to set the record straight while they’re here.”
She waved to reporters in the back of the room — many of them from New York and Washington — as the crowd cheered.
“One of our attorneys is a Jew,” she said with a smirk.
The audience laughed, applauded and whistled, and Roy Moore smiled.
“We have very close friends that are Jewish and rabbis, and we also fellowship with them,” she said.
Roy Moore’s recent comment that major Democratic donor George Soros, who is Jewish, was going to hell for his political activities led critics to accuse him of anti-Semitism.
Moore accused Soros of pursuing a liberal sexual agenda, without specifying what he meant by that. He said Soros was “going to the same place that people who don’t recognize God and morality and accept his salvation are going, and that’s not a good place.”
His wife also told the crowd that the media was falsely portraying him as opposing “the black community.”
“Yet my husband appointed the very first black marshal to the Alabama Supreme Court, Mr. Willie James,” she said. “When he first took office as the chief justice many years ago, he brought with him three people from Etowah County. Two were black, and one of them is here tonight.”
Kayla Moore’s remarks were widely condemned on social media.
“Let's say you are teaching a class about anti-Semitism, and you don't know how to show your students what anti-Semitism looks like in today's America,” Ronald Klain, a former top White House aide under Presidents Obama and Clinton, wrote on Twitter. “Kayla Moore has solved your problem.”
Moore and Democrat Doug Jones are vying in Tuesday’s election to fill the Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions when he was appointed U.S. attorney general.
Moore has called Native Americans and Asians “reds and yellows,” argued that Muslims are unfit for public office, hailed life in the slavery era as a time when America was great because families were united, and denounced homosexuality as an immoral and detestable “crime against nature.”
Allegations that Moore sexually assaulted or harassed teenage girls when he was in his 30s have made the Senate contest surprisingly competitive in a state that is heavily Republican. He denies the accusations.