“These allegations are completely false and misleading,” Moore told Sean Hannity on his radio show on Friday, adding that they were “politically motivated.”
The Washington Post reported the women’s on-the-record stories on Thursday, including that of a woman, Leigh Corfman, who said she was 14 when Moore initiated a sexual encounter with her.
Moore bashed the media in his interview with Hannity and said, “I’m sure in the next four weeks, they’re going to come out with another article.”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Friday that President Donald Trump would urge Moore to drop out of the race if the allegations are true: “Like most Americans, the President believes that we cannot allow a mere allegation — in this case, one from many years ago — to destroy a person’s life. However, the President also believes that if these allegations are true, Judge Moore will do the right thing and step aside. ”
A number of other Republicans, including Senate Majority Mitch McConnell and Vice President Mike Pence, have said the same. Others, like Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) and Mitt Romney, have said he should exit the race immediately, apparently confident of the veracity of the Post story. The writers cited 30 sources in their report.
Moore, though, has not bowed out, and his campaign issued a statement Friday afternoon.
“I have never provided alcohol to minors, and I have never engaged in sexual misconduct,” Moore said in the statement. “As a father of a daughter and grandfather of five granddaughters, I condemn the actions of any man who engages in sexual misconduct not just against minors but against any woman.”
Corfman told the Post that when she was 14, Moore engaged in at least two attempts to have sexual relations with her, which she said was unwanted.
Moore, however, told Hannity that he didn’t “know Ms. Corfman from anybody.” Moore was asked whether he recalled dating any teenager when he was in his 30s, and he responded, “Not generally, no.” The age of consent in Alabama is 16. He said that he didn’t remember dating “any girl without the permission of her mother.”
He said that he dated “a lot of young ladies” after he returned from military service in Vietnam, but said that his behavior was “always appropriate.”
Although he said that he did not know Corfman, he did recognize two of the women who were quoted in the Post, including Gloria Thacker Deason, who claimed that he purchased alcohol for her even though she was 18. The drinking age was 19 at the time.
The Post story has once again exposed insurgent vs. establishment fissures within the Republican party. Moore is backed by Steve Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist, and has waged a campaign of attacks on the GOP establishment, including McConnell.
Even before the allegations against Moore, McConnell, when asked about his candidacy, had cited past far-right candidates who have stumbled in the general election, giving Democrats unexpected victories. They include Todd Akin, who sought to oust Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), in 2012, and Richard Mourdock, who sought a seat in Indiana that same year yet was defeated by Democrat Joe Donnelly.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee apparently dropped out of a joint fund raising committee set up for Moore’s campaign. It was left out of a filing with the Federal Election Commission on Friday. The Republican National Committee, the Alabama Republican Party and Moore’s campaign were still included as participants in the effort.
Moore is running in a Dec. 12 special election to fill the seat vacated by Jeff Sessions when he became attorney general. The Democrat, Doug Jones, is a former U.S. attorney.
The last Democrat elected from Alabama to the U.S. Senate was Richard Shelby, who won a seat in 1986 and was reelected in 1992. He switched party affiliations in 1994 and remains in the Senate.
Moore’s interview and denials have not stopped other Republicans from distancing themselves from his candidate. Later on Friday afternoon, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Sen. Steve Daines (R-Montana) announced that they were pulling their endorsements.
“Having read the detailed description of the incidents, as well as the response from Judge Moore and his campaign, I can no longer endorse his candidacy for the US Senate,” Lee wrote on Twitter.