Hannity to Moore: You've got 24 hours to explain yourself

Roy Moore is running out of defenders, and the one with the biggest platform of them all issued an ultimatum last night. Either come up with a better explanation that eliminates all of the inconsistencies in Moore’s previous responses to sexual-abuse allegations, Sean Hannity declared, or “get out of this race.”

Fox News host Sean Hannity has given up defending Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore of Alabama, telling viewers Tuesday night the judge has “24 hours” to explain conflicting answers to the sexual misconduct allegations against him.

“You must immediately and fully come up with a satisfactory explanation for your inconsistencies,” Hannity said. “You must remove any doubt. If he can’t do this, then Judge Moore needs to get out of this race.” …

“The American people deserve a hundred percent truth and honesty,” Hannity said. “We need correct answers the first time on issues this serious. Judge Moore you owe that to the people of Alabama, the Republican Party that you represent and to the country which is suffering under so many problems. We deserve answers, consistent answers, and truth.”

Give Hannity credit for revealing some of those inconsistencies himself in a harder-hitting-than-expected interview with Moore last Friday. Perhaps Moore’s performance on his syndicated radio show took Hannity by surprise, who had been defending Moore until that point from what he saw as unfair attacks. And give him credit for not burying them too, although it took three of his TV shows for Hannity to finally lower the boom on Moore.

The press conference held by Beverly Young Nelson on Monday seems to have been the last straw for Hannity, although his timeline is a bit confused. He cites the yearbook as a rebuttal to Moore’s declaration that he never knew Nelson, but Moore’s denial came after the yearbook was presented at the presser. Hannity apparently isn’t buying the blizzard of strange conspiracy theories floating around the fringes about ink color, business names, and all sorts of other nonsense intended to rebut the yearbook, and his citation of the yearbook is an implicit rejection of those “expert” analyses.

Our colleague Guy Benson (also a Fox News contributor) notes that Moore’s wife Kayla has been trying to amplify these desperate attacks on Nelson’s credibility, to little avail and to even less coherence. That’s not a good look under any circumstances, but Guy notes that it might be somewhat understandable … to a point:

As for Mrs. Moore’s stream of rash falsehoods, her defenders will say that it’s understandable, if not romantic, that a woman would do anything she could to help her embattled spouse.  (Surely they feel the same way about Hillary Clinton).  But that defensive impulse, no matter how relatable, should not give anyone license to repeatedly create or spread fake information.  I’d also bet that if the roles were reversed and the accusers‘ families were exposed as sharing fraudulent claims in defense of their loved ones, Mrs. Moore’s apologists would wield those disproven claims as evidence against the women’s stories.

As for the ultimatum, though, it’s not clear exactly what Hannity has in mind after the 24 hours expires. Moore has issued flat denials, so the only way to get rid of the inconsistencies surrounding the yearbook and Nelson’s allegations would be to admit he did know her and did eat at the restaurant on a regular basis. That would mean he lied initially, though, and that would put a stake through the heart of his credibility even among Moore’s most rabid fans.

If Moore is determined to see this all the way through, the only choice he has is to keep doubling down. If that means Hannity starts attacking him on Fox News, Moore has to be thinking, so be it. But Moore isn’t really in a position to lose too much more support, especially in a TV host with as much draw among Moore’s base as Hannity has, and especially when his biggest online platform has begun to get cold feet. Don’t be surprised if Moore shows up again to restate all of his previous denials, and then challenge Hannity to make it easy for a Democrat to win that Senate seat by believing Gloria Allred. It’d make great TV and Moore could tell himself that he went down swinging, but it’s not going to change the outcome.