Tully Borland, an associate professor of philosophy at Ouachita Baptist University, published an op-ed sympathetic to Alabama U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore Thursday, immediately setting off a firestorm of criticism from Never Trump commentators and on social media.
“I have a 14-year-old daughter. If I caught Roy Moore doing what was alleged, for starters I would kick him where it counts. That said, I don’t think it’s wrong to vote for Moore,” Borland’s article on The Federalist begins.
Hardly a ringing endorsement of the embattled Alabama Republican, Bordland’s piece makes a defense of some of the legal conduct in which Moore is alleged to have engaged, casts doubt on some of the allegations of clearly illegal conduct, and argues, in essence, that voting for Moore is the lesser of two evils. He cites, for example, Democratic Doug Jones’s stance on abortion as a reason to support Moore even if voters “suppose the accusations are mostly true.”
Most controversially, Borland offered a general defense of older men looking to start families with teenage women. Citing a friend whose grandmother was married at 15 and data suggesting a male-female age gap of around 15 years is most advantageous for starting large families, he writes:
In fact, this practice has a long history and is not without some merit if one wants to raise a large family.
To have a large family, the wife must start having kids when she is young. The husband needs to be well-established and able to support the family, in which case he will typically need to marry when older.
Despite Borland’s description of Moore as a “terrible candidate,” a swift backlash came from the Moore detractors he sought to combat. Never Trump National Review columnist David French, whom Borland named in his piece, called Borland’s argument an “embarrassing effort.”
In response to the assertion he and other Never Trumpers are merely “virtue-signalling” when they express outrage over Moore and his alleged behavior, French writes:
Finally, as so many Moore defenders do, Borland accuses me of “virtue-signaling.” It’s another way of claiming I’m making my arguments in bad faith — hoping that people will see me as moral rather than speaking out of sincere conviction. I’m past caring about that accusation. If condemning Roy Moore is “virtue-signaling,” then I’ll virtue-signal all day.
Other Never Trump stalwarts piled on with their own signals:
If someone submitted a piece to the Federalist about how conservatives are obliged to vote for Doug Jones, would it be published?
— John Podhoretz (@jpodhoretz) November 30, 2017
The way I read it you weren't supporting it, you were just excusing it. https://t.co/phQXszpaHn
— Rick Wilson (@TheRickWilson) November 30, 2017
General social media response was no less negative. After hundreds of negative comments calling Borland a pedophile apologist, a likely pedophile himself, or worse, the professor took the opportunity to clarify that he was not making a general endorsement of behavior like that of which Moore is accused:
Let's be clear, no, I do not support 30-yr-olds dating teens. People need to learn how to read and follow an argument.
— Tully Borland (@BorlandTully) November 30, 2017
Few of Borland’s detractors were convinced.