Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell now says he believes the women who have accused Roy Moore of sexual abuse of minors and unequivocally says the intensely anti-LGBT U.S. Senate candidate should leave the race.
"I think he should step aside," McConnell told reporters in a news conference in Louisville, Ky., today, according to Politico. He added, "I believe the women, yes."
Last week The Washington Postpublished an Alabama woman's account of dating Moore in the late 1970s, when she was 14 and he was in his early 30s. At one point, when they were alone in Moore's home, he stripped her to her undergarments and touched her in a sexual manner, and guided her hand to make her touch his genitals through his underwear. Several other women said they dated Moore when they were in their teens, but the contact didn't go beyond kissing.
When the story broke, McConnell said Moore, running in a special election in Alabama, should step down "if these allegations are true." With McConnell now changing his tune, Moore tweeted Monday, "The person who should step aside is @SenateMajLdr Mitch McConnell. He has failed conservatives and must be replaced. #DrainTheSwamp."
Several other Republicans have called on Moore to leave the race, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska suggested that Luther Strange, the interim senator Moore beat in the Republican primary and subsequent runoff, mount a write-in campaign, Politico reports. That's how Murkowski, also a Republican, won her seat. At today's news conference, McConnell said a write-in candidate is a possibility but declined to say if he favored Strange or someone else.
Such a move, though, could split the Republican vote and throw the election to Democrat Doug Jones, a former federal prosecutor who is running close to Moore in some polls in the deeply conservative state. They are running in a special election to replace Jeff Sessions, who is now U.S. attorney general. The vote will be December 12.
Moore, a favorite of the religious right, is well-known for his anti-LGBT, antichoice, and pro-gun views. He was removed as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court for ethics violations related to his attempts to block marriage equality in the state after the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide in 2015. He has said marriage equality will lead to the downfall of the U.S. and that transgender people are mentally ill and have no rights.
Moore has denied the allegations of sexual abuse and generally inappropriate relationships, and at a campaign event Sunday night he said he would sue the Post, reports AL.com, a website for several Alabama newspapers. "About three days ago, The Washington Post published another attack on my character and reputation in a desperate attempt to stop my political campaign," he said at the event in Huntsville. "These attacks about a minor child are completely false and untrue. And for which they will be sued."