By Kaitlyn Schallhorn, Madeline Farber, ,
Published December 12, 2017
Many national Republican leaders pulled their support for Roy Moore, the Alabama Senate candidate, in the wake of allegations claiming he had inappropriate sexual contact with teenage girls.
The Washington Post reported that four women accused Moore of initiating sexual contact with them in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when he was an assistant district attorney in his early 30s. One of the women, Leigh Corfman, told the newspaper that Moore had sexual contact with her when she was 14. The age of consent in Alabama is 16.
Several additional women have since come forward to accuse Moore of sexually inappropriate behavior.
Moore denied the allegations, saying in a statement obtained by Fox News that the allegations are "based on a lie supported by innuendo."
"It seems that in the political arena, to say that something is not true is simply not good enough. So let me be clear. I have never provided alcohol to minors, and I have never engaged in sexual misconduct," he said.
Multiple Republican lawmakers called on Moore to step aside from the Dec. 12 special election. However, President Trump offered his endorsement for the embattled politician, and the Republican National Committee began supporting Moore after having previously cut its fundraising ties to him.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president had no plans for an in-person appearance on Moore's behalf.
In addition, the president previously signed off on a decision by the Republican National Committee to cut off support for Moore's campaign.
But publicly, Trump unleashed his criticism on Democratic candidate Doug Jones instead of Moore.
“The last thing we need in Alabama and the U.S. Senate is a Schumer/Pelosi puppet who is weak on crime, weak on the border, bad for our military and our great vets, bad for our 2nd Amendment, and wants to [raise] taxes to the sky. Jones would be a disaster,” Trump tweeted on Nov. 26.
And just over one week before the election, Trump said he needed Moore’s vote in the Senate when it comes to certain issues, such as immigration, gun rights and judicial appointments.
Trump also encouraged his Twitter followers to vote for Moore on the morning of the election as he contended that Moore "will always vote with us."
Vice President Mike Pence “found the allegations in the story disturbing and believes, if true, this would disqualify anyone from serving in office,” his press secretary, Alyssa Farah, has told reporters.
While speaking to reporters, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he believes the women quoted in the Washington Post story. He urged Moore to step aside in light of the allegations.
Previously, McConnell said Moore should step aside if "these allegations are true."
Cory Gardner, the National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman, said he believes the women who have alleged Moore's misconduct. In a statement, he encouraged the Senate to "vote to expel" Moore should he win the election next month.
"He does not meet the ethical and moral requirements of the United States Senate," Gardner, R-Colo., said.
A former backer of Moore, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, pulled his endorsement from Moore after the allegations came to light.
"Having read the detailed description of the incidents, as well as the response from Judge Moore and his campaign, I can no longer endorse his candidacy for the US Senate," Lee said in a tweet.
He had also requested that Moore's campaign no longer use his image.
“I’m horrified and if it’s true, he should step down immediately,” Murkowski told reporters.
She reportedly also urged Sen. Luther Strange, who was appointed to fill Jeff Sessions’ seat when he was tapped to become attorney general, to launch a write-in campaign. The deadline to take Moore off the ballot has passed.
“If they are true, then he should seriously think about stepping aside," Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., said.
“I find it deeply distrusting and troubling. It’s up to the governor and the folks of Alabama to make that decision as far as what the next steps are," Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, said. He later withdrew his endorsement of Moore.
“If they’re accurate, he absolutely should [step aside]," Tim Scott, of South Carolina, said.
In a tweet, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, called for Moore to "withdraw from the Senate race in Alabama."
Collins wrote that she listened to Moore deny the allegations in a recent radio interview, but "did not find his denials to be convincing."
Collins' most recent statement comes after she previously tweeted: "If there is any truth at all to these horrific allegations, Roy Moore should immediately step aside as Senate candidate."
"I am pulling my endorsement and support for Roy Moore for U.S. Senate," said Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont.
"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," Arizona Sen. John McCain said.
“It’s a devastating nasty story,” Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby told reporters. “If it’s true, I don’t believe there’d be a place for him in the U.S. Senate.”
He said that he did not vote for Moore when he sent in his absentee ballot but voted instead for a "distinguished Republican write-in."
Like other Republicans, Flake called on Moore to “step aside” from the election.
"Just to be clear. If the choice is between Roy Moore and a Democrat, I would run to the polling place to vote for the Democrat," Flake tweeted.
He’s said that “Republicans to support Roy Moore over Doug Jones is political tribalism at its worst.”
Flake also tweeted a photo of a check made out to Jones for $100 with "Country over Party" written in the memo line.
Alabama Sen. Luther Strange, who lost the special election primary to Roy Moore, called the allegations “disturbing.”
It is too late to take Moore off the ballot, but Strange has been encouraged to launch a write-in campaign.
“I think if what we read is true, and people are on the record so I assume it is, then he should step aside,” Ohio Sen. Rob Portman said.
Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., called the Washington Post’s story "heartbreaking."
Sasse also slammed the Republican National Committee for providing funds to Moore’s race.
“This is a bad decision and very sad day. I believe the women – and the RNC previously did too. What’s changed? Or is the party just indifferent?” Sasse said on Twitter. “This sends a terrible message to victims ‘it’s not that the party won’t believe you if you come forward. It might. But just doesn’t care.’”
The senator than warned that if the National Republican Senatorial Committee decided to contribute to Moore, he would “no longer be a donor to or fund-raiser for it.”
"These are serious and troubling allegations," Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who previously endorsed Moore, said in a statement. "If they are true, Judge Moore should immediately withdraw. However, we need to know the truth, and Judge Moore has the right to respond to these accusations."
Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., officially withdrew his support from the candidate.
"Based on the allegations against Roy Moore, his response and what is known, I withdraw support," he said.
"I stand with the Majority Leader on this. These are serious and disturbing accusations, and while the decision is now in the hands of the people of Alabama, I believe Luther Strange is an excellent alternative," Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, tweeted.
But a week before the election, Hatch said Trump didn’t have another choice but to endorse Moore, Bloomberg reported. He also said that “many of the things he allegedly did are decades ago. So it’s hard to – that’s a decision that has to be made by the people in that state.”
“If they make that decision, who are we to question them?” Hatch said.
“We'll probably never know for sure exactly what happened," Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
"But … I think the accusations have more credibility than the denial. I think it would be best if Roy would just step aside.”
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham took to Twitter to say Moore should step aside in the Alabama Senate race.
"In light of the most recent allegations and the cumulative effect of others, I believe [Moore] would be doing himself, the state, the GOP, and the country a service by stepping aside," Graham said. "If he continues this will not end well for Mr. Moore."
He has also bemoaned Trump’s attempt “to throw a lifeline to” Moore.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said if the allegations are true, they would disqualify Moore from the special election.
“These allegations are disqualifying if true. Anyone who would do this to a child has no place in public office, let alone the United States Senate,” Ryan said in a statement.
"I would say unless he can prove his innocence, the burden is now on him within the next day or so, I believe he has to step down. He owes it to himself, he owes it to the state and and he owes it to the U.S. Senate," New York Rep. Peter King said after the allegations came out.
In a tweet, Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., called for that "creepy Roy Moore dude" to step aside from the campaign.
"It's about that time for that creepy Roy Moore dude to exit stage left. He should step aside & let someone take his spot on the ballot who doesn't prey upon young teenage girls as a grown man," he said.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich said on Twitter that he’s “long opposed” Moore and called on him to step aside from the race as well.
“I’ve long opposed Roy Moore [and] his divisive viewpoints. The actions described make him unfit for office. The GOP must not support him. He should step aside,” Kasich said.
Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, slammed Moore on Twitter.
“Innocent until proven guilty is for criminal convictions, not elections. I believe Leigh Corfman,” the former governor said. “Her account is too serous to ignore. Moore is unfit for office and should step aside.”
"Roy Moore in the US Senate would be a stain on the GOP and on the nation. Leigh Corfman and other victims are courageous heroes. No vote, no majority is worth losing our honor, our integrity," Romney said in another tweet on Dec. 4.
Former Republican presidential candidate and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said Moore should step down in light of the allegations.
"This is not a question of innocence or guilt like in a criminal proceeding; this is a question of what’s right and what’s wrong. Acknowledging that you’re dating teenagers when you’re 32 years old as assistant state attorney is wrong. It’s just plain wrong," he told CNBC, adding that he agreed with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said earlier Monday that Moore should "step aside."
"We need to stand for basic principles, and decency has to be one of those," Bush added. "In the really poisonous political environment we have right now, one of the rules I think has to apply is that when you attack somebody on the other party, and the other team for doing something wrong, when it happens on your team, you have an obligation I think to speak out as well."
The president's daughter had some harsh words for Moore.
"There's a special place in hell for people who prey on children. I've yet to see a valid explanation, and I have no reason to doubt the victims' accounts," Ivanka Trump told the Associated Press.
While she didn’t name Moore, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice – who is from Alabama – encouraged voters to “take a stand for our core principles and for what is right.”
“These critical times require us to come together to reject bigotry, sexism and intolerance,” Rice said in a statement to AL.com.
"It is imperative for Americans to remain focused on our priorities and not give way to side shows and antics. I know that Alabamans need an independent voice in Washington. But we must also insist that our representatives are dignified, decent, and respectful of the values we hold dear,” she said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.