Steve Bannon labeled Arizona GOP Sen. Jeff Flake a “total embarrassment” and said Mitt Romney “hid behind” his Mormon faith to avoid military service in Vietnam during a Tuesday night campaign rally for Alabama Senate hopeful Roy Moore.
A day after Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, had tweeted criticism of Moore’s honor and integrity, Bannon said that Moore, a Vietnam veteran, “has more honor and integrity in a pinkie finger than your family has in its whole DNA.”
Bannon headlined a Moore campaign rally Tuesday night – one week from the December 12 special election to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ former seat – in Fairhope, Alabama.
It came a day after Trump called Moore and offered his endorsement, despite Moore facing accusations that he pursued sexual relationships with teenage girls – including a 14-year-old – while he was in his 30s.
“Mitt, here’s how it is, brother: The college deferments, we can debate that – but you hid behind your religion. You went to France to be a missionary while guys were dying in rice paddies in Vietnam,” Bannon said of Romney. “You had five sons, not one day of service in Afghanistan and Iraq. … Where were the Romneys during those wars?”
Both Flake and Romney had backed Democrat Doug Jones over Moore this week, citing the sexual allegations Moore faces. Flake cut a $100 check to Jones’ campaign.
Bannon mocked Flake’s decision to retire rather than face a Republican primary challenge next year from conservative Kelli Ward.
“Come on, brother – if you’re going to write a check, write a check. Right? Don’t give the man $100. Are you kidding me?” he said.
Bannon, President Donald Trump’s former White House chief strategist, also mocked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who had called on Moore to withdraw from the race.
Bannon cast McConnell as an instrument of the Republican establishment, recalling the party abandoning Trump in the wake of the “Access Hollywood” tape during the 2016 presidential campaign.
“Billy Bush weekend, they all ran to the hills,” he said.
“They want to destroy Judge Moore. And you know why? They want to take your voice away,” Bannon said. “This is about you, 100%. This is about you – they’re taking your voice away.”
In a speech following Bannon, Moore said he is fighting a “spiritual battle.”
“When God puts you there, you have nothing else to do but to stand,” he said.
Moore also lashed out at McConnell.
“We still have no wall, we still have illegal aliens crossing the border, we still have Obamacare, we still haven’t passed a tax program – working on it. We still have NAFTA, we still have CAFTA. Why isn’t (Trump) able to get these things done when he’s tried so hard?” he said. “Mitch doesn’t want to. He’s having a group of congressmen we call the establishment.”
Moore peppered his speech with attacks on transgender people, saying that “we do not need transgender in our military.”
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If I’m in a foxhole, I don’t want to know if this guy next to me is wondering if he’s a woman or a man or is flipped back and forth,” he said. “That’s not a military – we need a strong military.”
He also attacked wealthy liberal donor George Soros, saying that “Soros’ army” is “working around the state to get the vote of the people of Alabama to change.”
The rally with Bannon took place southeast of Mobile in an area heavy with more affluent, moderate, business-focused Republicans – the group that could swing the election between Moore and Jones.
Jones, who prosecuted two Ku Klux Klan members in the 1963 bombing of a Birmingham church that killed four African-American girls, took his hardest swings yet at Moore over the allegations in a Tuesday speech.
“I damn sure believe that I have done my part to ensure that men who hurt little girls should go to jail and not the United States Senate,” Jones said.
Jones also mocked Moore for having flashed a revolver onstage at a previous campaign rally, saying he himself uses guns for hunting and not “prancing around on a stage in a cowboy hat.”
“Roy Moore has never, ever served our state with honor,” Jones said. “He has never, ever been a source of pride for the people of this state, only a source of embarrassment.”
Following Trump’s lead, the Republican National Committee – which had withdrawn from its joint efforts with Moore’s campaign following the allegations – re-entered the Alabama race to try to elect Moore.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he has given up his efforts to replace Moore on the ballot, calling the election up to the voters of Alabama.
He reiterated to reporters Tuesday that he wanted Moore to step aside, but that “obviously is not going to happen.”
“If he were to be elected, he would immediately have an Ethics Committee case and the committee would look at the situation and give us advice,” McConnell said.