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Editorial: When the gutter isn't good enough, St. Louis politics aims for the sewer

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Steve Roberts

State Senator Steve Roberts speaks at a ceremony honoring former U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay on Saturday.

Missouri state Sen. Steve Roberts has launched a major media offensive to reclaim his reputation and refute allegations that he sexually assaulted the late Cora Faith Walker in 2016, as both prepared for their freshman terms as state legislators. Walker, who died last month under suspicious circumstances at a downtown hotel and whose cause of death remains under wraps, is obviously no longer here to defend herself.

But Roberts has the next best thing: a statement signed by Walker acknowledging that Roberts didn’t sexually assault her six years ago, that the sexual intercourse the two had on the night in question, Aug. 26, 2016, was consensual and that she was not too intoxicated to have consented. Walker had claimed around the time of the encounter that she had passed out in his apartment. But since the subsequent statement was part of a confidential, court-officiated settlement, its authenticity is hard to challenge.

If it was supposed to be confidential, why is Roberts releasing it now? The answer can be found in the sewer-level politics to which some St. Louis political operatives have descended in their mad scramble for power and influence. Before her death, Walker made a number of online postings referring to the rape allegation in apparent violation of the settlement. The agreement allowed for the confidentiality condition to be lifted if either party violated the terms. Roberts says he’s more than justified in doing so.

More to the point, Roberts is challenging Rep. Cori Bush for her 1st District congressional seat, and Bush is trying to revive the rape allegation as a way of attacking Roberts’ character — or distracting voters from her own abysmal record.

Roberts has released a YouTube video blasting Bush’s far-left record in her first year in Congress. Despite overwhelming national support for Ukraine following Russia’s unprovoked, brutal invasion, Bush is among the few members of Congress to vote against sanctions on Russia. As Ukrainians die by the thousands and more than 4.5 million have had to flee Russia’s slaughter, Bush prioritizes not punishing the Russian people.

Roberts has every right to defend himself, especially since he now has a signed statement from Walker to refute whatever Bush and her supporters throw at him. But that apparently isn’t stopping them.

“We don’t believe anyone is served by Steve Roberts running a campaign built around the idea that every person who has accused him of wrongdoing is a liar,” senior Bush campaign adviser Lynese Wallace told the Post-Dispatch’s Joe Holleman.

Actually, it’s not Roberts but Walker herself who affirms that the rape allegation is not true. Roberts remains vulnerable, however, because a separate accuser came forward alleging a 2015 sexual assault for which Roberts was never charged.

This is the sorry state of politics in today’s St. Louis, where mud no longer suffices and sewage is, apparently, now the weapon of choice.

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