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Do people grant moral exemplars the benefit of the doubt for bad behavior, or hold them to a higher standard than morally average targets? Across 5 studies, we compared evaluations of moral character between exemplars and 'average Joes' who either succeeded or failed to act prescriptively or proscriptively. In Studies 1, 2a, and 2b, moral exemplars received similar moral evaluations relative to average Joes after prescriptive failures, indicating that participants do not hold exemplars to higher standards for prosocial acts. In Study 3, participants evaluated exemplars more positively than average targets for proscriptive failures, suggesting that exemplars receive a reputational buffer when they engage in immoral behaviors; however, Study 4 did not replicate this effect. Study 5 further clarified the conflicting findings from Studies 3 and 4, showing that participants evaluate exemplars similarly to average targets for committing immoral acts even when the overall immorality of the act is ambiguous. Interestingly, we also found that participants make distinctions between positive, non-moral evaluations and morally relevant evaluations.