Another woman on Monday accused Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore of an unwanted sexual advances, just hours after the top Republican in the U.S. Senate said Moore should end his candidacy.
In the newest case, Beverly Young Nelson cried at a New York news conference as she alleged that Moore assaulted her in his car in the late 1970s when she was a 16-year-old student working at a restaurant that he frequented in Gadsden, Alabama. She accused Moore of groping her, touching her breasts and pushing her head toward his crotch before she fell or was pushed out of the car.
Shortly before her news conference, Moore said the latest allegations against him are a "witch hunt" and said he "has never had any sexual misconduct with anyone." He said he "will pursue all legal options against these false claims."
Nelson's accusations came four days after The Washington Post published a lengthy account in which a woman, Leigh Corfman, now in her 50s, alleged that Moore made an unwanted sexual advance on her in 1979 when she was 14 and he was a 32-year-old local prosecutor. Three other women recalled that about the same time Moore pursued them when they were teenagers and he was more than a decade older.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, speaking before Nelson made her allegations, said that Moore should quit his Senate campaign.
McConnell previously said Moore should end his candidacy if the allegations were proven true. But now McConnell said he believes Corfman's account of her encounter with Moore and that of the three other women quoted in the Post's account.
"I think he should step aside," McConnell told reporters in Louisville.
December 12 election
McConnell said Republicans could attempt to win the December 12 special election with a write-in candidate, possibly Senator Luther Strange, the appointed lawmaker whom Moore defeated for the party's Senate nomination in a primary election in late September.
But a write-in candidacy would be complicated by the fact that Moore's name has already been printed on absentee voter ballots and the deadline for withdrawal from the race has long since passed. Senator Cory Gardner, another Republican, said that if Moore wins the election, the Senate should vote to expel him because he does not meet the chamber's "ethical and moral requirements."
Shortly after McConnell's remarks, the campaign of the 70-year-old Moore said on Twitter that "the person who should step aside" is McConnell, adding, "He has failed conservatives and must be replaced."
Moore has routinely ridiculed McConnell's performance as the Senate Republican leader and had already rebuffed calls from other prominent Republicans to drop out of the race.
His contest against Democrat Doug Jones, a former federal prosecutor, is to fill out the last three years of the seat once held by Jeff Sessions, now attorney general in President Donald Trump's Cabinet.
Moore told political supporters Sunday that last week's Post report was "fake news" and "a desperate attempt to stop my political campaign." He said the newspaper "will be sued."
He told the political rally that "there are groups that don't want me in the United States Senate," naming the Democratic Party and establishment Republican officials in Washington. He accused them of working together to derail his campaign, but said, "We do not plan to let anybody deter us from this race."
The White House has said Moore should end his candidacy if the charges are proven to be true, a stance adopted by other key Republicans, including most Republican senators.
White House legislative aide Marc Short said Sunday, "I think there's a special place in hell for those who actually perpetrate these crimes. But, having said that, he hasn't been proved guilty. We have to afford him the chance to defend himself."
Reaction from other Republicans
Aside from McConnell, other Republicans, including Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and two former Republican presidential candidates, Mitt Romney and Senator John McCain of Arizona, have called for Moore to end his candidacy or revoked their past endorsements.
Moore has tried to raise money off the controversy, telling potential donors that "vicious and sleazy attacks against me are growing more vicious by the minute."
He said, "I'm counting on you to stand with me at this critical moment by chipping in a donation to help me bust through the vicious lies and attacks and get the truth out to as many voters as possible before December 12."
Four surveys of voters taken in Alabama, a southern state, in the immediate aftermath of the newspaper story and Moore's adamant rejection of it show him to be in a close race with Jones, separated by a few percentage points, with a significant share of undecided voters.