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The Republican nominee for the upcoming special U.S. Senate election in Alabama is the latest public figure to be accused of sexual indiscretion after a woman came forward to accuse Moore of kissing and fondling her when she was just 14 years old.
The woman, Leigh Corfman, says the incident occurred in 1979, when Moore was 32-year-old assistant district attorney in Etowah County, Ala., reports The Washington Post. Corfman says Moore approached her while she was in the county courthouse and offered to watch her while her mother went inside for a child custody hearing.
Corfman says Moore asked for her phone number, and, days later, picked her up and drove her 30 minutes away to his home in the woods, telling her how pretty she was and kissing her. During a second encounter, he took off her shirt and pants and removed his clothes, touching her over her bra and underparts and guiding her hand to touch him over his underwear. She says she felt uncomfortable and asked Moore to drive her home, and he did.
Two of Corfman’s childhood friends testify that she revealed she was seeing an older man at the time, and one says she identified the man as Moore. Her mother, Nancy Wells, says her daughter told her about the encounter more than a decade later, after Moore’s political star began to rise.
Three other women have told The Washington Post that Moore pursued them when they were between 16 and 18 years old and he was in his early 30s. They said they found his advances flattering at the time, but troubling as they got older. None of them say he forced them into a relationship or any sexual contact.
The revelations shook up the Alabama Senate race, where Moore remains favored to win but has already been significantly underperforming in polls, relative to a generic Republican candidate. A Fox News poll released last month showed Moore tied with Democrat Doug Jones, with each man earning 42% of the vote, but it’s not clear whether that poll was an outlier.
In any case, Republicans on Capitol Hill began calling for Moore to step down if the allegations put forth by Corfman are true.
“If these allegations are true, he must step aside,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a statement on behalf of his caucus.
Other Republican senators expressing similar sentiments included Richard Shelby, who would become Moore’s home-state colleague should he win, Jeff Flake of Arizona, David Perdue of Georgia, John Thune of South Dakota, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, John McCain of Arizona, and Cory Gardner of Colorado, who is the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee for the 2018 cycle.
But Moore seems to have no intention of stepping down, accusing the Post of pushing unsubstantiated claims in a “completely false and desperate attack” and a “last ditch Hail Mary” to help out liberal organizations that have been trying to defeat Moore.
Moore’s decision not to step down may be based on a political calculation that would work to his benefit. The tactic of attacking the press — which is seen as having a liberal bias — is often a tried-and-true strategy for Republicans, who can use suspicion and mistrust of the press to rally the base and galvanize their most conservative followers to turn out in higher numbers.
“Judge Roy 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,” Moore’s campaign said in a statement. “After over 40 years of public service, if any of these allegations were true, they would have been made public long before now.”
UltraViolet Action, a national women’s advocacy group, issued a statement demanding Moore withdraw from the race and calling on Republicans to rescind their endorsements of him.
“Roy Moore is a child sexual predator and must immediately withdraw from the race,” Nita Chaudhary, the co-founder of UltraViolet action, said in the statement. “No one who sexually assaults children deserves to be anywhere near the United States Senate. All those who have endorsed, stood by, or promoted his toxic, racist, and now predatory candidacy must trust these women and disavow him immediately, including Senators Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Rand Paul, John Cornyn, and Steve Daines.”
Moore, who has carved out a reputation as a fierce crusader on social issues, is best known for his anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and actions while on the state Supreme Court. He was suspended without pay for the remainder of his term for issuing an order to probate judges in Alabama that essentially advised them to ignore the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision legalizing marriage equality.
Moore has compared opponents of same-sex marriage to Holocaust victims, arguing that they are being persecuted for their religious or moral beliefs by leftists and marriage equality supporters, and has said the legalization of marriage equality was “worse” than the Dred Scott decision that ruled that African-Americans were property, not citizens. He has also said he supports making homosexuality illegal, and has praised Russian President Vladimir Putin for pushing laws that crack down on LGBTQ Russians’ rights to free speech and free expression.