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The proposal by President Donald Trump to put conservative economic pundit Stephen Moore on the Federal Reserve board hit a stumbling block weeks ago with the disclosure of his contentious divorce and a federal tax lien, which came on the heels of criticism of his nomination by a range of economists.
Now, Moore's past humorous writings, which make pointed jokes about his then-jobless spouse, and about Hillary Clinton, Democrats and AIDS, have come to light, raising the prospect of even rockier waters for Moore in his bid to join the central bank.
In a 2003 National Review Online column, Moore joked that he had deployed an "ingenious child rearing technique" of taping "gruesome pictures" of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's dead, mangled sons on the family refrigerator with the written message: "THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS TO KIDS THAT GROW UP TO BE DEMOCRATS!"
In 2004, Moore wrote another National Review Online column, a "Happy Christmas" letter that likewise was clearly intended to be humorous. In the piece, Moore griped about his young sons' poor athletic performance and his then-3-year-old boy being diagnosed with "low-muscle tone" by a pediatrician.
"He might as well have told us that [the boy] has AIDS," Moore wrote.
The columns, which CNBC has reviewed, seem less funny now than they may have been seen originally in light of the recent exposure of Moore's divorce records. Those documents show that his ex-wife Allison had accused him of adultery, of subjecting her to "emotional and psychological abuse," and of shorting her on more than $300,000 he had agreed to pay her in a divorce settlement, alimony and child support until a judge held him in contempt of court. The IRS has a $75,000 tax lien on Moore for unpaid income taxes from his 2014 tax return. Moore is contesting that amount.
On Tuesday, Trump's top economics advisor, Larry Kudlow, a key backer of Moore's nomination, told reporters that the White House is speaking with "a number of" other potential "candidates" for the Fed's two open board seats besides Moore and former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain, whose selection by the president likewise has faced criticism.
Kudlow also said that Moore and Cain are both still in the vetting process, and that "we support" both men's candidacies for the central bank posts.
A spokeswoman for Moore told CNBC that Moore had no comment either on his columns or on Kudlow's remarks.
In her 2010 divorce complaint, Allison Moore said she was the "primary caretaker and role model for the parties' children."
"She quit her job to devote her time to raising their children," the complaint said.
But Allison Moore's lack of a job was a subject of jabs by her husband in the joke-laden National Review Online columns — which appear to be written as parodies of annual family Christmas letters. In the essays, he routinely referred to himself in the third person.
"Allison consumes, but she still doesn't produce," Moore wrote of his then-wife in a December 2003 column in the National Review. "She now falls into the category of what economists call 'long-term unemployed.' Steve describes her as the family's 'loss leader.'"
"She manages to keep busy though, what with her anger-management class in the morning, Weight Watchers in the afternoon, and then Tuesday and Thursday evenings when she and Steve attend couple's therapy," he wrote.
A year later, Moore wrote in a column, "No, Allison STILL doesn't have a job, but thanks SO much for asking."
In a statement issued to CNBC in early April, Stephen Moore had said, "Allison Moore and I were married for 19 years and have three wonderful sons whom we have co-parented. Our divorce was settled amicably many years ago and we remain on friendly terms to this day. She is a terrific mother and I hold her in the highest regard."
"Allison, our kids and my current wife would hope that the media would please respect our privacy. I am happy to speak to the media on any matters related to the economy or my views on the Fed," Stephen Moore said at the time.
Allison Moore, in a statement issued to CNBC through Stephen Moore's spokeswoman in early April, said, "Steve Moore and I reconciled through our divorce many years ago and we would hope the media would respect our privacy. We remain on cordial terms."
David Roop, the lawyer who represented Allison Moore in her divorce, declined to comment Tuesday when asked about Stephen Moore's columns.
In his 2003 column, Stephen Moore wrote that "one highlight" of that year was getting his 2-year-old son potty trained by his "brilliant idea of pasting a photo of Hillary Clinton with a bullseye target on the bottom of the potty."
"And ever since then, it's been like Niagara Falls — and with perfect accuracy — every time nature calls."
In her divorce filing, Allison said Moore in 2010 had created two Match.com accounts with the aim of connecting "romantically with other women." The filing said Moore began what was "by his own admission ... a romantic adulterous relationship" with a woman, and that he once said to the Moores' children in front of Allison: "I have two women, and what's really bad is when they fight over you."
Nine years earlier, in a National Review end-of-year column entitled "Some Christmas Jeer," Moore wrote: "Will someone out there please help us get Allison a job? It's not so much that we need her income, but that when she sits at home idly day after day she becomes a compulsive shopper."
But Moore also noted in the same column "that Steve, too, has done his part to nudge the economy along. A few months ago he bought a cherry red Camaro convertible," which his "22-year-old college intern" told him "''screams midlife crisis!'"
"On more than one occasion Steve has been cruising around town with the top down and a gorgeous 20-something blond has pulled up beside him: he looks longingly at her, she gives him a 'come hither look,' and then the mood is spoiled when she sees [one son] drooling in the baby seat and then [the older sons] start making weird faces at her," Moore wrote.
"She sticks her finger in her mouth and zooms off and Steve is left screaming at the kids: 'How many times do I have to tell you tyrants to stay out of sight when I'm hitting on girls?'"
"And then [one son], with a puzzled look on his face says, 'but daddy, we already have a mommy,'" Moore wrote. "And then Steve says, 'Yes, but imagine, just for a moment, how nice it would be if you had a much younger mommy.'"