WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans wasted no time calling for Alabama GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore to drop out of the race if allegations that the former state judge groped a 14-year-old girl when he was a thirtysomething prosecutor are true.
The Washington Post reported today on the allegations of four women, all named on the record, who say that Moore asked them out and kissed them when they were teenagers. One woman who was 14 at the time, which is below the age of consent for any sexual contact in Alabama, said Moore took her to a rural home, undressed down to his underwear, touched her through her bra and underwear, and moved her hand toward his genitals before she asked that he take her home.
The paper noted that they interviewed more than 30 people who knew Moore and the women involved between 1977 and 1982, and checked to ensure none of the women had made donations to or worked for Doug Jones, Moore’s Democratic opponent, or any of Moore’s GOP primary challengers, including Sen. Luther Strange (R-Ala.). The accuser who was 14 at the time of her alleged encounter with Moore said she voted for Donald Trump.
Moore campaign chairman Bill Armistead lashed out that 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.”
“National liberal organizations know their chosen candidate Doug Jones is in a death spiral, and this is their last ditch Hail Mary,” Armistead said. “…After over 40 years of public service, if any of these allegations were true, they would have been made public long before now.”
“This garbage is the very definition of fake news and intentional defamation,” the statement added.
The special election to fill the Senate seat once occupied by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) is Dec. 12. The only Republican option if Moore dropped out now would be a write-in campaign, as it’s too late to alter ballots.
“If these allegations are true, he must step aside,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a brief statement.
“The allegations against Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore are deeply troubling,” National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) said. “If these allegations are found to be true, Roy Moore must drop out of the Alabama special Senate election.”
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who lost the 2010 primary to Tea Party candidate Joe Miller but won the general election with a write-in campaign, reportedly has already talked with Strange, who was appointed to the seat after Sessions moved to the Justice Department, about mounting his own write-in campaign.
Strange told a BuzzFeed reporter it was a “very, very disturbing report” and that he’ll “have more to say.”
In the GOP primary, Strange ran an ad criticizing Moore for a 2015 decision in favor of a 17-year-old daycare worker convicted of raping a 12-year-old; Moore argued that ther was “no evidence in this case of an implied threat of serious physical injury.”
Other Republicans piled on Moore.
“If there is any shred of truth to the allegations against Roy Moore, he should step aside immediately,” tweeted Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.).
“The allegations against Roy Moore are deeply disturbing and disqualifying. He should immediately step aside and allow the people of Alabama to elect a candidate they can be proud of,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) tweeted.
Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) echoed in a statement: “If these allegations are true, Roy Moore must step aside.”
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) told reporters on Capitol Hill that “this troubling news is so recent that people are trying to understand what hit us — I think people are trying to sort it out and figure out what the appropriate response is, including Sen. Strange.”
“If it is true, I don’t think his candidacy is sustainable,” Cornyn added. “But we believe in a presumption of innocence until proven guilty. And so I think it’s important for the facts to come out.”
Alabama’s other senator, Richard Shelby (R), said, “If that’s true, I don’t believe there’d be any place for him in the United States Senate.”
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) called the report “appalling and heartbreaking.”
“If there’s an ounce of truth to any of this, Roy Moore has no place in public life and ought to drop out immediately,” Sasse said. “Alabamians should start thinking about who they’ll write in but it’s obvious that conservatives deserve better than this.”
The McConnell-allied Senate Leadership Fund declared in a statement that “there is no place in our party for sexual predators.”
“If there’s even a shred of evidence to these accusations, Gov. Ivey and the Alabama Republican Party need to do everything in their power to remove Judge Moore from the ballot,” president and CEO Steven Law said.
Alabama State Auditor Jim Ziegler came to Moore’s defense, telling the Washington Examiner that it was “much ado about nothing.”
“The allegations are that a man in his early 30s dated teenage girls. Even the Washington Post report says that he never had sexual intercourse with any of the girls and never attempted sexual intercourse,” Ziegler said.
“Take the Bible. Zachariah and Elizabeth for instance. Zachariah was extremely old to marry Elizabeth and they became the parents of John the Baptist,” Ziegler concluded. “Also take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus.”
“There’s just nothing immoral or illegal here,” he added. “Maybe just a little bit unusual.”