Nervous Republicans in Washington are calling for GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore to step aside if the accusation he had a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old girl in 1979 is true.
But the supposition poses a dilemma: It appears impossible to prove the decades old allegation as it is the now the 53-year-old woman’s word, as published by the Washington Post, against Moore’s insistence the report is "fake news."
And the Dec. 12 special election to fill Alabama’s U.S. Senate seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions is only a month away.
Moore’s name will appear on the ballot no matter what, along with that of Democrat Doug Jones, a former U.S. Attorney, who had been given little chance of winning the seat.
It is too late in the election process to remove Moore’s name, said the Alabama Secretary of State’s Office. The only option for voters who prefer someone else is to write in a name.
The 70-year-old Moore said he will not withdraw from the race, dismissed the sexual impropriety accusations as a smear tactic by his political foes and called on supporters to contribute to his stretch run campaign to ensure his and their conservative Christian values are transported to the Senate.
"National liberal organizations know their chosen candidate Doug Jones is in a death spiral, and this is their last ditch Hail Mary," said Bill Armistead, Moore’s campaign manager.
Three other women, ages 16 to 18 at the time, also said they had been pursued by Moore when he was in his 30s, but that nothing went beyond kissing. The Washington Post reported they found his attention becoming at the time but troubling as they got older. The legal age of consent in Alabama is and was at the time 16.
Alabama’s state auditor, Jim Ziegler, put a biblical parallel on their accounts of Moore seeking relationships with teenage girls of legal age
A Republican state representative lashed out at Roy Moore’s accusers Thursday, suggesting prosecution of the woman who said the U.S. Senate candidate initiated a sexual encounter with her when she was 14 and claims by four other women that he pursued romantic relationships with them when they were teenagers decades ago.
"Take Joseph and Mary," he told the Washington Examiner. "Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus."
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, President Trump’s press secretary, said Trump believes a "mere allegation," especially one from many years ago, should not be allowed to destroy a person’s life, but added: "The president also believes that if these allegations are true, Judge Moore will do the right thing and step aside."
Similar sentiments were expressed by other Republican leaders, including Vice President Mike Pence, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and even Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama.
GOP Sen. John McCain was the most outspoken. He called for Moore to withdraw from the race on the basis of the sexual impropriety accusations.
In Alabama, Moore's supporters rallied around the former Alabama Supreme Court judge who was twice removed from the court for misconduct in defying orders.
State Rep. Ed Henry told The Times of Cullman, Alabama, that if Moore’s accusers believe Moore was a predator, "they are guilty of allowing him to exist for 40 years. I think someone should prosecute and go after them. You can't be a victim 40 years later, in my opinion."
Waid Harbison, Cullman County Republican Chairman, said he needed more specifics before jumping off the Moore bandwagon.
"I really haven’t seen a lot about it yet, but from what little I do know, anybody can be accused of anything at any time," said Harbison. "Unfortunately, that’s the world we live in."
The Cullman, Alabama, Times contributed details to this story.