The surprise victory of gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin in Virginia has had some Republican leaders publicly considering a rebrand of the party as a party for “parents.” But a series of scandals involving child molestation, as well as rhetoric sexualizing underage children, could threaten the tactic and a possible “red wave” in the 2022 midterm elections.
Youngkin attacked anti-racist education in schools in Virginia, inaccurately describing such efforts as “critical race theory,” the academic study of systemic racism. Aided by pro-Republican outlets like Fox News, Youngkin successfully motivated voters in the commonwealth and scored a narrow victory over former governor Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat.
“The Republican Party is the party of parents,” wrote Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) after the election. The sentiment was echoed by other well-known Republicans, like Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), as well as Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY).
Former Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Fox News contributor, endorsed the notion, arguing, “It’s the radicals at the top of the teachers’ union that make it impossible for Democrats to be the ‘party of parents.'”
But it is Gingrich’s immediate successor as Speaker of the House that raises a lot of red flags pertaining to child molestation.
GOP Speaker Dennis Hastert, Child Molester
Dennis Hastert took over Gingrich’s role in January of 1999 and served as Speaker until Democrats won the 2006 midterm elections.
It was later revealed that Hastert had repeatedly sexually abused a child. Jolene Burdge revealed that her brother Steve Reinboldt told her that Hastert molested him while working as a coach at his high school in Illinois.
“Jolene said that Steve told her the abuse lasted throughout Steve’s four years of high school as he served as team student manager,” ABC News reported.
Summing up the toll the abuse had taken on her brother, Burdge told the network, ” He damaged Steve I think more than any of us will ever know.”
Hastert was later indicted for arranging to pay out millions in hush money over the abuse and was later convicted for the infraction.
He also admitted to the abuse in court.
“The defendant is a serial child molester,” said Judge Thomas M. Durkin of Federal District Court, adding, “Nothing is more stunning than having ‘serial child molester’ and ‘speaker of the House’ in the same sentence.”
The Mark Foley Congressional Page Scandal
Hastert also played a key role in downplaying concerns that then Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) sent sexually suggestive emails and texts to teenage boys who had worked as congressional pages. The texting scandal came to light in 2006.
The conversations, which took place from 1995 to 2005, came under FBI investigation.
Jim Jordan Accused Of Covering Up Abuse
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), a frequent guest on Fox News and other right-wing outlets, also has a molestation skeleton in his closet despite his parental rhetoric.
At least eight former wrestlers at Ohio State University, who were a part of the team while Jordan was a coach there, have accused him of ignoring reports of sexual abuse.
Jordan has denied that he was alerted to alleged abuses by Richard Strauss, the team’s doctor at the time. Strauss committed suicide in 2005.
Roy Moore Underage Assault Allegation
Roy Moore, a former judge who was the Republican Party’s nominee for the U.S. Senate in a 2017 special election, also was at the center of a molestation scandal. Multiple women accused Moore of sexually assaulting them while they were minors.
Beverly Young Nelson told reporters that Moore assaulted her when she was 16: “I tried fighting him off, while yelling at him to stop, but instead of stopping, he began squeezing my neck, attempting to force my head onto his crotch.”
Despite the allegations, the party stuck with Moore, who lost to Democrat Doug Jones.
Donald Trump’s Sexualized Comments On Underage Children
Along with the molestation scandals the party also has continued to support former President Donald Trump despite his considerable history of sexualizing his own daughter Tiffany, even when she was a minor.
When she was an infant, Trump said “time will tell” if she would inherit the same bust size as her mother Marla Maples.
In a 2003 interview, Trump told Howard Stern that he met Paris Hilton when she was 12 years old: “the first time I saw her she walked into the room and I said, ‘Who the hell is that?’ At 12, I wasn’t interested … but she was beautiful.”
According to an eyewitness, Trump insisted his daughter Ivanka was “hot” when she was 16: “Don’t you think my daughter’s hot? She’s hot, right?”
Bombshells To Come?
The scandals and rhetoric about molestation in the Republican Party have already turned off many voters, but there is also the possibility that there are other scandals yet to emerge. Altogether the history could significantly cloud the GOP’s attempt to co-opt a parental agenda as a winning political message.