On Wednesday afternoon, Roy Moore’s lawyer Trenton Garmon—perhaps most famous for deploying the phrase “easy peasy Lemon squeezy” in an interview with CNN’s Don Lemon last week—was asked by MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle and Ali Velshi why Moore would’ve needed permission from the mothers of those now accusing him of sexual misconduct if they weren’t underage at the time he dated them. This was his response:
Garmon: Sure, that’s a good question. Culturally speaking, obviously there’s differences—looked up Ali’s background there. Wow—that’s awesome that you’ve got such a diverse background. That’s really cool to read through that. But point is—
Ruhle: What does Ali’s “background have to do with dating a 14 year old?
Garmon: I’m not finished with the context of it. Point of this is—
Ruhle: Please answer. What does Ali Velshi’s background have to do with dating children, 14 year old girls?
Garmon: Sure. In other countries, there’s arrangement through parents, for what we would refer to as consensual marriage.
Ruhle: Ali’s from Canada.
Garmon: I understand that. And Ali’s also spent time in other countries—
Ruhle: So have I!
Garmon: It’s not a bad thing.
Velshi: I don’t know where you’re going with this, Trenton.
Cynical partisans might call this exchange “racist”—just because Garmon happened to assume a brown-skinned person named Ali would be intimately familiar with and supportive of the marriage and sexual assault of children. But there’s another reading here, too: Garmon—a former pastor and Bible translator with a master’s degree in theology—offered, in his own deer-in-a-Mack-Truck’s-headlights kind of way, a wildly radical defense of cultural relativism. You won’t find many liberal, pink-haired college students willing to endorse undressing and groping kids because it’s supposedly commonplace “in other countries.” Garmon not only went there; he planted a flag—probably Confederate—in defense of a candidate who has tried to terrify voters about the threats immigrants, especially Muslims, pose to the values reputedly shared by Alabama’s finest, or more precisely, whitest citizens. But it’s unclear given the kind of open-mindedness displayed here—and in polls showing the allegations against Moore have made almost 40 percent of evangelicals more supportive of him—what exactly those Alabamans are so worried about. Their values seem remarkably malleable anyway—almost as though anything goes when you’re the right kind of American and when a Senate seat, or the presidency, is on the line.