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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed Monday that the Trump administration is in the process of reviewing the past writings of conservative economics pundit Stephen Moore, President Donald Trump's recently announced pick to join the board of the Federal Reserve.
Moore's writings have come under scrutiny for passages that appear to denigrate women, call for the repeal of child labor laws, make jokes about AIDS, and jab at Moore's now-ex wife, Allison Moore.
"Certainly, we're reviewing those comments," Sanders told reporters Monday morning outside the White House, in response to a question about the writings, and about Moore's insistence that he is the target of a "sleaze campaign."
"When we have an update on that front, we'll let you know," Sanders said.
Asked later about whether Sanders' remarks reflected a change in tone from the White House regarding Moore's expected nomination, National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow told reporters they did not. Kudlow also emphasized that there had been no change in the president's position on Moore, who was one of a small number of high-profile economists who backed Trump's 2016 presidential campaign.
Nonetheless, Sanders' comments marked the first time the White House has acknowledged that Moore's past writings are undergoing internal, as well as external, scrutiny. It was also noteworthy for Sanders to indicate that an "update" would be forthcoming after the review was complete.
If Moore were to withdraw his name under from consideration for the Fed post, he would become the second Trump pick to do so in recent weeks: On April 22, Trump announced that former pizza company executive Herman Cain had asked that his name be withdrawn from potential nomination, after four Republican senators said they would not support him, leaving Cain short of the 51 votes needed to be confirmed to the post.
Moore's past writings
The controversial comments Moore has made are scattered across decades worth of opinion columns he has written for conservative media outlets. But they include repeated suggestions by Moore that if women earn more money than men, it could lead to societal instability.
"What are the implications of a society in which women earn more than men?" Moore wrote in a 2014 column for National Review. "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? We saw what happened to family structure in low-income and black households when a welfare check took the place of a father's paycheck. Divorce rates go up when men lose their jobs" he wrote.
Two years later, Moore said during a debate on the minimum wage that one way to get more people into the labor market was to repeal laws that prohibit child labor. "I'm a radical on this," Moore said. "I'd get rid of a lot of these child labor laws. I want people starting to work at 11, 12."
Other writings Moore produced for National Review were intended to be humorous, but at the expense of his then-wife, Allison, his children and people with AIDS. Allison Moore later filed for divorce in 2012, and accused her then husband of "emotional and psychological abuse."
Moore has so far neither denounced nor vigorously defended his actual writings, and has instead accused the media of using "sleazy" tactics and engaging in "tabloid journalism."
Appearing Sunday on ABC's "This Week," Moore claimed he did not remember writing some of the things he did, but added that others "weren't funny, and so I am apologetic; I'm embarrassed by some of those things."
Moore also repeated his past claim that "this has been kind of a sleaze campaign against me."
A spokeswoman for Moore did not immediately reply Monday to a request for comment from CNBC about the White House review. However, press reps for Moore sent several reporters a list of tweets and columns on conservative media outlets backing his nomination.
— CNBC's Eamon Javers contribute reporting.