WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump’s pick to fill a vacant seat at the Federal Reserve said on Sunday a smear campaign was being waged against him, after past writings and comments about women sparked renewed criticism by Democratic lawmakers.
Stephen Moore, during an interview on ABC’s “This Week,” said there were a handful of reporters dedicated to digging up negative information on his personal life and previous statements.
Trump has not formally nominated Moore to be a Fed governor, which would give him a role in setting interest rates for the world’s biggest economy.
Moore said the Republican president asked him to appear on the Sunday news show, where he denounced negative news reports as a “smear campaign” and “character assassination.”
Republicans have a 53-47 majority in the Senate, giving them the final say on whether Moore’s promised nomination is confirmed. Democratic Senators have criticized Moore for his policy positions, including his longtime support of tax cuts to stimulate the economy, as well as his comments about women.
“If I become a liability to any of these senators, I would withdraw,” Moore told ABC. “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.
“I just think the perception is very different from the reality in terms of my attitude toward women.”
Moore said he had apologized for writing a column 18 years ago in which he jokingly called women’s participation in basketball “a travesty,” adding he would never write such a “politically incorrect column” today.
Moore also has come under fire for 2014 comments referring to cities in the U.S. Midwest, such as Cincinnati, as the “armpits of America.”
Some economists and Democratic lawmakers have questioned Moore’s competence, citing his support for tying policy decisions to commodity prices and his fluctuating views on rates.
Moore was an adviser to Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and has commented on the economy in various media. In 1999 he co-founded the Club for Growth, an organization calling for lower taxes and limited government.
Trump has broken from tradition by frequently and publicly pressuring the Fed. He has accused the non-partisan central bank under Chairman Jerome Powell, who Trump appointed to the job last year, of hurting the economy and stock market. Moore has said he agrees with Trump that rates should be reduced.
“It was a terrible decision by the Fed,” Moore said of the Fed decision to raise interest rates in December. “The stock market fell by 2,500 points in the subsequent weeks of that, 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.”
Trump also had planned to nominate former pizza chain executive Herman Cain for a Fed seat, but Cain withdrew from consideration last week, saying it would reduce his income and influence. Cain, whose bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 was derailed by accusations of sexual harassment, would have had a difficult confirmation process because four Republican senators had expressed reservations about him.
Reporting by Doina Chiacu and Yeganeh Torbati; Editing by Lisa Shumaker, Bill Trott and Daniel Wallis