WASHINGTON (AP) — An Alabama woman says Roy Moore, the Republican nominee for next month’s U.S. Senate election, made inappropriate advances and had sexual contact with her when she was 14, according to a Washington Post story Thursday.
The Moore campaign called the report “the very definition of fake news and intentional defamation.”
Senior Republicans swiftly called for Moore to step aside if the allegations are shown to be true.
“The allegations against Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore are deeply troubling,” said Colorado Sen. Chairman Cory Gardner, who leads the Senate GOP campaign arm. “If these allegations are found to be true, Roy Moore must drop out of the Alabama special Senate election.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell added, “If these allegations are true, he must step aside.”
The Moore campaign’s statement said, “Judge Roy Moore has endured the most outlandish attacks on any candidate in the modern political arena, but this story in today’s Washington Post alleging sexual impropriety takes the cake,” reads the statement, noting that Moore has been married to the same woman for 33 years and has four children and five grandchildren.
The Moore campaign continued, “After over 40 years of public service, if any of these allegations were true, they would have been made public long before now.”
The incidents are reported to have taken place when Moore, the 70-year-old former state Supreme Court judge, was serving as an assistant district attorney in his early 30s, according to the Post.
The newspaper reports that Moore, then 32, first approached 14-year-old Leigh Corfman in early 1979 outside a courtroom in Etowah county, Alabama. After phone calls and meetings, he drove her to his home some days later and kissed her, the Post quotes Corfman as saying. On a second visit, he took off her shirt and pants and removed his clothes except for his underwear before touching her over her bra and underpants, Corfman told the Post. He also guided her hand to touch him over his underwear, she said.
“I wanted it over with — I wanted out,” she told the Post. “Please just get this over with. Whatever this is, just get it over.”
Moore won the right to represent the GOP in the Dec. 12 special election after surviving a bruising primary election that divided the GOP, including President Donald Trump and his former chief strategist Steve Bannon. Trump backed Sen. Luther Strange in the contest, while Bannon and much of the far-right portion of the party backed Moore.
Soon after the Post report was published, several Republicans joined calls from GOP leaders for Moore to leave the race.
“The allegations against Roy Moore are deeply disturbing and disqualifying,” said Arizona Sen. John McCain. “He should immediately step aside and allow the people of Alabama to elect a candidate they can be proud of.”
Texas Sen. John Cornyn said, “If it is true I don’t think his candidacy is sustainable.”
It’s too late for Moore’s name to be removed from the ballot even if he wants to withdraw from the race, according to John Bennett, a spokesman for the Alabama secretary of state.
“There is no process for Judge Moore to be removed from the ballot,” Bennett said. “The party and the candidate himself can remove their nomination, or revoke their nomination, however, the name will appear on the ballot regardless.”
In such a scenario, even if Moore earned more votes than the Democrat, the state canvassing board would not declare him the winner, Bennett said.
Alabama law lists the legal age of consent as 16.
In Alabama, the statute of limitations for bringing felony charges involving sexual abuse of a minor in 1979 would have run out three years later. Corfman never filed a police report or a civil suit, the Post said.
Aside from Corfman, three other women interviewed by the Post in recent weeks said Moore approached them when they were between the ages of 16 and 18 and he was in his early 30s. None of the other women said that Moore forced them into any sort of relationship or sexual contact.