Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called on the party’s nominee for Senate in Alabama, Roy Moore, to withdraw from the race if a new report that he pursued teenage girls in his 30’s is confirmed.
“If these allegations are true, he must step aside.”
Other Republican senators also reacted with alarm to the report by the Washington Post. It quoted several women saying that Moore initiated contact with them when as teenagers, including one woman who said she had a sexual encounter with him when she was 14 and he was 32.
“The allegations against Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore are deeply troubling,” added Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “If these allegations are found to be true, Roy Moore must drop out of the Alabama special Senate election.”
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) was unequivocal. “I’m horrified, and if this is true he needs to step down immediately,” she told reporters.
“It’s a nasty story, I don’t know anything about it,” added Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.). Asked if Moore should withdraw, Shelby said, “Let’s see how the story runs.”
Pressed further on the issue, Shelby said, “I supported Sen. Strange, you all know that.” He was referring to Sen. Luther Strange, whom Moore defeated in a Republican primary.
The report quotes Leigh Corfman, who Moore reportedly started the sexual relationship with her when he was an assistant district attorney in 1979.
According to the Post, Moore approached Corfman outside a courtroom in Etowah County. At the time, Corfman was sitting with her mother. Moore got her phone number and then days later took her to his house in the woods and kissed her. During a second visit, according to Corfman, Moore took her clothes off as well as his own and ran his hand over her body and her hand over his underwear.
Corfman recounted her story in a consistent fashion during six interviews, according to the Post.
The Post report also said three other women it interviewed said Moore pursued them while he was in his 30s and they were teenagers. But those women say he did not try to initiate sexual contact with them.
Moore issued a statement to the Post denying the accusations.
“These allegations are completely false and are a desperate political attack by the National Democrat Party and the Washington Post on this campaign,” Moore said in the statement.
Moore, a former controversial state Supreme Court judge, is running in the special election for Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Senate seat. His opponent is former U.S. attorney Doug Jones, a Democrat. Moore has been heavily favored to win.
The election is on Dec. 12.
Washington Republicans including McConnell and the NRSC overwhelmingly backed Strange over Moore in the primary.
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas), who endorsed Moore after his primary victory over Strange, said that senior Republicans are still examining what options they have — if any — ahead of the special election.
“This troubling news is so recent that people are trying to understand what hit us,” Cornyn told reporters. “I think people are trying to sort it out and figure out what the appropriate response is, including Sen. Strange.”
Cornyn also suggested that Corfman’s willingness to go on the record about the sexual contact does not yet prove Moore’s guilt.
“If it is true, I don’t think his candidacy is sustainable,” Cornyn said. “But we believe in a presumption of innocence until proven guilty. And so I think it’s important for the facts to come out.”
Pressed by reporters on the further proof he would want to view the allegations against Moore as true, Cornyn added: “I’m interested in seeing what substantiation there is for the story.”
Murkowski later told reporters that she would encourage Strange to re-enter the race as a write-in candidate, though it’s unclear whether Alabama law would allow that.
“Of course it’s possible!” said Murkowski, who won her own 2010 re-election race as a write-in contender after losing the Alaska GOP primary.
John Bresnahan, Kyle Cheney and Anthony Adragna contributed to this report.
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