Many politically conservative Christians are backing up presidential candidate Gary Bauer's denial of "inappropriate" interaction with his 27-year-old deputy campaign manager.

James Dobson, psychologist and founder of Focus on the Family, rallied to Bauer's defense, issuing a statement saying, "I went directly to Gary, as one Christian to another, and asked him about the allegations. He assured me that he has never been involved in an affair. … I have also spoken to his wife, Carol, and she has assured me that Gary has not engaged in any improper conduct."

Accusations that Bauer was spending too much time alone with top aide Melissa McClard began to circulate after two Bauer aides resigned. Charles Jarvis, Bauer's former campaign chairman, and Tim McDonald, former chief of advance operations, said they resigned from Bauer's campaign because they felt that Bauer was fostering the appearance of sexual impropriety by meeting and traveling alone with the deputy manager.

Bauer accused rival candidate Steve Forbes's campaign of stirring up rumors about his conduct. Jarvis, Bauer's former campaign manager, went to work for Forbes after resigning from Bauer's organization in mid-September. Bauer called the rumors "trash can politics at its worst" and reiterated that he had remained faithful to his wife of 27 years.

Bill Dal Col, Forbes's campaign manager, told the Washington Post that the rumors did not originate in the Forbes camp and that he would fire anyone who promoted allegations of sexual impropriety.

McDonald is no longer involved in politics and told the Post he found it "really dispiriting that Gary would blame it on someone else when … the rumors were inside the campaign."

Bauer also defended his right to meet with a professional woman, saying he was not a minister or pastor and should not be held to that standard of conduct. "Such meetings take place all over Washington, D.C., every day between congressmen, senators, other presidential candidates," Bauer explained at a press conference designed to quell speculation.

But many other Christian politicians and evangelical leaders hold themselves to a stricter protocol. Evangelist Billy Graham has set the standard by refusing to ever meet alone in a room with a woman. Representative Steve Largent (R-Okla.) ensures a male staff member is present whenever he meets with a woman, and John Ensign, a senatorial candidate in Nevada, will not ride alone in a car with a woman.

"It's the rule, not just for clerics, but for professionals," Richard Cizik of the National Association of Evangelicals told Religion News Service. "We're instructed in Scripture not to create the appearance of evil."

Despite support from conservatives, some political analysts believe this hint of scandal might cool Christian voters' zeal for Bauer. Lyman Kellstedt, a Wheaton College political scientist, told the Washington Post Bauer could enhance his image by acknowledging that he had allowed himself to be in potentially compromising positions, and pledging to no longer meet alone with a woman.

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