Updated 3:17 p.m. | Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore is accused of initiating a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old girl when he was 32, according to The Washington Post.
“If these allegations are true, he must step aside,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday.
Leigh Corfman said she was approached by Moore in 1979 outside an Alabama courtroom in Etowah County and exchanged numbers with him.
Later, he drove her to his house and kissed her, she said. In another encounter, Corfman said Moore took off his clothes and undressed her while she touched his underwear.
“I wanted it over with — I wanted out,” she told the Post.
Two of Corfman’s friends said she told them at the time.
Three other women came forward and said Moore pursued them when they were between the ages of 16 and 18, but none of them said they were forced into sexual contact.
Moore vehemently denied the allegations.
“These allegations are completely false and are a desperate political attack by the National Democrat Party and the Washington Post on this campaign,” he said.
“If any of these allegations were true, they would have been made public long before now,” Moore’s campaign said in a statement.
A growing chorus of Republican senators expressed concern Thursday.
National Republican Senate Committee Chairman Cory Gardner called the story “deeply troubling.”
“If these allegations are found to be true, Roy Moore must drop out of the Alabama special Senate election,” he said.
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, who endorsed Moore last month, said it was up to the governor and people in the state.
” I find it deeply disturbing and troubling,” he said. “If it is true, I don’t think his candidacy is sustainable.”
Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio echoed that sentiment, adding that he has “no reason to doubt” the story.
Arizona Sen. John McCain was even less equivocal. “The allegations against Roy Moore are deeply disturbing and disqualifying,” McCain said in a statement. “He should immediately step aside and allow the people of Alabama to elect a candidate they can be proud of.”
Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski said she was “horrified” by the allegations and told reporters she urged Strange to wage a write-in campaign. Murkowski won a write-in campaign for Senate in 2010 after losing her party’s nomination.
Others urged caution.
Republican Sen. John Hoeven of North Dakota told reporters Thursday the allegations were “a real concern” as he re-entered the GOP luncheon where senators huddled on taxes. But he “would have to see what the facts are, what actually happened” before commenting, he said.
“I supported Senator Strange. Y’all know that,” he told reporters.
House Freedom Caucus Chairman Rep. Mark Meadows, who endorsed Moore, tweeted Moore should immediately step aside if the allegations are true.
Steven Law, the president and CEO of Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with McConnell, suggested Moore may need to be dropped from the ballot. SLF spent money opposing Moore in the primary but backed him after he won that contest.
“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,” Law said in a statement. “There is no place in our party for sexual predators.”
It’s too late for the state GOP to replace Moore’s name on the ballot because it’s now within 76 days of the election and ballots are already printed. The party could withdraw its nomination, or Moore himself could withdraw from the race. Moore’s name would still appear on the ballot, and he theoretically would still receive votes. But those votes wouldn’t count as official votes and Moore could not be certified as a victor.
The only way for a new name to appear on the ballot at this point is through a write-in campaign, confirmed John Bennett, deputy chief of staff to the Alabama Secretary of State.
Jeremy Dillon, Mary Ellen McIntire, Niels Lesniewski and Simone Pathe contributed to this report.