Allegations of sexual harassment are continuing to rock the government, as politicians such as Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore have been accused of inappropriate acts. But as Washington grapples with how to proceed, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has indicated that his disapproval of those accused of sexual harassment doesn’t extend to the president.
In an NPR interview released Friday, Ryan was asked about the charges against Moore, who is accused of sexually assaulting and harassing multiple underage women. Ryan, who has called on Moore to withdraw from the Senate race, told NPR that he believes the allegations against Moore are “credible.”
But when it comes to President Donald Trump, Ryan wasn’t quite so willing to believe the accusers. When asked what the difference is between Moore’s allegations and those against Trump — who has been accused of sexual assault and sexually violating behavior by nearly 20 women — Ryan was unable to condemn Trump’s actions in the same strong terms.
“I think the Roy Moore... I don’t know if — I’m focused on Congress,” Ryan said. “Roy Moore is trying to come to Congress. My job here as speaker of the House is to help make sure that Congress is an institution that we’re proud of, and that’s what I’m focused on. He’s running for Congress and I think the allegations against him were very, very credible.”
When asked again to be specific about the difference between Trump and Moore and the allegations against them, Ryan said, “I don’t know the answer to that. I haven’t spent my time reviewing the difference in these two cases.”
Though Trump and Ryan have had their differences since Trump got elected president, Ryan even offered praise for him in the interview, and would only go so far as to call Trump “unconventional.”
“Look, it’s no secret that he and I have had our difference of opinions,” Ryan said. “It’s no secret that I’ve shared my opinions about his tweets and the rest. But what I see is a president who is fighting for the things that I’m fighting for. I see a president who’s fighting for an agenda that will make a positive difference in people’s lives.
“Is this president unconventional? No two ways about it. He’s very unconventional. But if we make good by the American people by actually improving their lives and fixing problems and finding solutions that are bothering them, that’s a good thing.”
“He should step aside,” Ryan told CNN on Nov. 14. “No. 1, these allegations are credible. No. 2, if he cares about the values that he claims to care about, then he should step aside.”
Ryan has also called on Conyers to resign in the wake of the sexual harassment allegations against the long-serving congressman.
But Ryan has never extended the same harsh judgment to Trump, who has been consistently accused of assault — and even bragged about his inappropriate behavior. Ryan condemned Trump’s comments when an Access Hollywood tape from 2005 was released during the presidential election in which Trump bragged about “grab[bing] women by the pussy.”
“Women are to be championed and revered, not objectified,” Ryan said in a statement at the time. “I hope Mr. Trump treats this situation with the seriousness it deserves and works to demonstrate to the country that he has greater respect for women than this clip suggests.”
Though the release of the Access Hollywood tape was followed by a number of women stepping forward with their own stories of sexual assault by the then-candidate, Ryan’s initial disapproval of Trump was ultimately short-lived. Rather than calling on Trump to withdraw from the race, Ryan campaigned with Trump’s running mate, Vice President Mike Pence, and told Republicans in Wisconsin to “come home” and vote for Trump.
When a recording surfaced in March of Ryan saying in October 2016 that he was “not going to defend Donald Trump — not now, not in the future,” Ryan’s spokesman Brendan Buck made it clear that Ryan’s disapproval of Trump as a sexual predator was a thing of the past.
“Obviously a lot has happened since then. As everyone knows,” Buck told Breitbart, adding in a follow-up email that Ryan’s comment was in response to the Access Hollywood tape, but “as everyone knows, they came together toward the end of the campaign and the speaker vocally supported him and even campaigned with Pence.”