Once in a while, a public official reveals hypocrisy so blatant that the nation takes bewildered notice and recoils in actual disgust.
A man from Missouri recently claimed the throne as the internet's creepiest main character in a moment of stiff competition for the title. In a public hearing on April 11, Republican state Sen. Mike Moon appeared to reiterate his support for children as young as 12 having the right to marry with parental permission.
"Do you know any kids who have been married at age 12?" Moon asked. "I do. And guess what? They're still married." These comments came five years after Moon and 49 other Missouri Republicans voted against a 2018 bill to curb child marriage. (Thankfully, they were overruled.)
After his recent comments went viral and made national headlines, Moon told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "I do not support adults marrying children."
Is it a relief that one of our lawmakers backed off a statement that seemed to endorse child rape? The bar is admittedly low, but is it this low?
Moon's desire for child brides to have the freedom to marry came back to light in the context of another argument about parental rights. This time, he's leading the charge to strip rights from parents seeking medical care for their transgender children. If we're following Moon's logic, the state must intervene to protect transgender children if a parent allows them to seek gender-affirming care, but the state should NOT intervene if a parent allows their middle school-aged daughter to get married. Got it?
In Missouri, an adult participating in sexual intercourse with a child under the age of 17 may be prosecuted for statutory rape. But one man's statutory rape is another man's wedded bliss.
Let's try a little thought experiment: If Moon had a long salt-and-pepper beard and his skin was just a shade or two darker, and if his words -- "Do you know any kids who have been married at age 12? I do" -- were spoken with a slight Middle Eastern accent, how quickly would his Republican counterparts have spoken out against him?
Moon's exchange with Democratic state Rep. Peter Merideth about child marriage was recorded on video, making it easier for the moment to go viral. The public reaction was as close to unanimous as you can get these days. Most of us do not know any 12-year-old kids who have been married, nor do we wish to. This is not a guy people would want around their children.
It takes something significant nowadays to break through the daily partisan outrage and provoke a genuine emotion. Most of us are worn down -- exhausted from the nastiness and hypocrisy in politics. Even when legitimately bad behavior from public officials comes to light, those on the same political "team" prefer to ignore or discount it.
For example, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was recently exposed by ProPublica for having accepted luxury gifts -- undisclosed, for years -- from a billionaire Republican donor with an extensive collection of Hitler memorabilia. By all accounts, this is unprecedented behavior. Thomas has never denied his questionable actions, but Republicans called the report a "smear" anyway.
Wouldn't it be refreshing for one of them to simply say, "So what? We don't care when it's Our Guy."
In that sense, the collective public shaming of Moon's statement has been oddly comforting.
We still know sleaze when we see it.