Likely Fed Board nominee Stephen Moore apologizes for past 'humor columns' disparaging women, but says focus should be on economic expertise

"Some of them weren't funny, so I am apologetic," he said.

April 28, 2019, 10:19 AM

Stephen Moore, one of President Donald Trump's likely picks to serve on the Federal Reserve Board, said Sunday that he was "apologetic" for the content of some of his old "humor columns" that have recently sparked criticism, saying he had no memory of writing some, and adding the focus for the nomination should be on his economic qualifications.

"Frankly, I didn't even remember writing some of these they were so long ago...They were humor columns but some of them weren't funny so I am apologetic, I’m embarrassed by some of those things I wrote," Moore told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on "This Week." "But I do think we should get back to the issue of whether I'm qualified to be on the Federal Reserve Board, whether I have the, you know, economic expertise.

"I’ll debate anybody on economics... Let's make this about the economy."

Moore's provocative past writings and commentary disparaging women were first reported by CNN and The New York Times. In an email to CNN, Moore said the old writings were "a spoof," adding that he has "a sense of humor."

Stephen Moore, visiting fellow at the Heritage Foundation, stands for a photograph following a Bloomberg Television interview in Washington, D.C., March 22, 2019.
Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

In a Washington Times piece from September 2000, Moore said college was a place for men "to chase skirts," and questioned why women would wear "tight skirts" to parties if they were so "offended by drunken, lustful frat boys."

"Colleges are places for rabble-rousing,” Moore wrote. “For men to lose their boyhood innocence. To do stupid things. To stay out way too late drinking. To chase skirts... It’s all a time-tested rite of passage into adulthood. And the women seemed to survive just fine. If they were so oppressed and offended by drunken, lustful frat boys, why is it that on Friday nights they showed up in droves in tight skirts to the keg parties?"

In 2002, he wrote a column for the National Review in which he said women should not be sports referees, announcers or even beer vendors.

"There is, of course, an exception to this rule. Women are permitted to participate, if and only if, they look like Bonnie Bernstein," he wrote, referring to the female ESPN commentator, also saying it's a "no brainer" that she should wear a halter top. "The fact that Bonnie knows nothing about basketball is entirely irrelevant."

Bernstein responded to Moore's comments, tweeting, "You want halter tops? Hit the club scene. You want hoops knowledge? Try actually listening.”

More said on “This Week” that a “smear campaign” against him began “two or three weeks ago.”

"What's happened is there’s five or six full-time reporters investigating every area of my life. These articles that you're talking about were 17, 18 years ago."

However, Stephanopoulos asked Moore about a column he wrote for the National Review five years ago, in 2014 in which Moore wrote about the wage discrepancy.

"What are the implications of a society in which women earn more than men? We don’t really know, but it could be disruptive to family stability. If men aren’t the breadwinners, will women regard them as economically expendable?" he wrote in a column titled "The Real Gender Pay Gap."

"A lot of people look at it and say, ‘What do you mean by that?’" Stephanopoulos said.

"Well, look, first of all, when you look at what's happened under Donald Trump and what's happening with wages now and increases in income, I think prosperity and economic growth are a women's issue... This is a -- as you just said, this is a sizzling economy right -- right now," Moore said. "Women have benefited -- you know -- George, we have the lowest -- we have the lowest unemployment rate for women in 50 years. I mean, that’s a big deal."

Stephanopoulos pressed, "But right there in that article -- in that article you're taking on legislation designed to close the wage gap."

"We are closing the wage gap," Moore said, adding, "When it comes to wages and -- and, you know, gender equity, I want that to be decided by the market. I don't want government to intervene in those kinds of things."

Moore said he thinks Republican senators will support his potential nomination, but also said that if he were to "become a liability" to any of them, he would withdraw his nomination.

"I don’t think it’s going to come to that, I think most fair-minded people think this has been kind of a sleaze campaign against me," he told Stephanopoulos. "So I just think that the perception is very different from the reality in terms of my attitude toward women."

Even as these past writings have resurfaced, Moore, who has not yet been formally nominated for a Federal Reserve Board seat, still has the support of the White House, according to National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow.

“He’s in the process, being vetted by the FBI and so forth, and if he gets through that we will nominate formally,” Kudlow said Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Kudlow said he believes Moore that the writings were "a spoof."

"That’s what he’s told me. I do buy it. I know him, he’s kind of a great sense of humor, wise-ass kinda guy. What can I tell you? I don’t think it’s germane. I don’t think he was making a statement. I think he was making a spoof. Our support is still there," he told reporters at the White House.

Director of the White House National Economic Council Larry Kudlow addresses a Newsmaker Luncheon at the National Press Club, April 23, 2019, in Washington, D.C.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

On March 22, Trump announced his intent to nominate Moore to serve on the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve, calling him "a very respected economist" and "an outstanding choice."

Moore, who currently serves as a distinguished visiting fellow at the Heritage Foundation, was an economic adviser to Trump during his 2016 presidential campaign, and also helped write the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, one of the signature legislative successes of Trump's presidency. He's also the author of the book "Trumponomics: Inside the America First Plan to Revive our Economy.”

Moore said on "This Week" that one of the most compelling reasons he should be on the Fed Board is because he was "one of the first economists" to criticize the Fed for raising interest rates in December.

"I got very angry about it and I said this was economic malpractice. It was a terrible decision by the Fed. The stock market fell by 2,500 points in the subsequent weeks of that," he said. "And then, of course, the Fed had to reverse course, put its tail between its legs and admit that people like Donald Trump and I were right and that they were wrong.

"And incidentally, George, ever since then the economy has been on this surge."

Stephanopoulos asked Moore if he was confident he'd be formally nominated.

"I think that I’m going to make it through this process," Moore said. "My whole thing is we can grow this economy at 4%... that’s good for every segment of our population."