Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called on the Alabama GOP nominee for Senate, Roy Moore, to withdraw from the race if multiple allegations that he pursued sexual relationships with teenagers are true.
"If these allegations are true, he must step aside," McConnell told reporters, following the publication of the story in The Washington Post. In it, four women described on the record how Moore allegedly tried to initiate sexual relationships with them while they were in their teens and he was in his early 30s. The 70-year-old Moore denies the allegations.
Moore chatted with [14-year-old Leigh Corfman] and asked for her phone number, she says. Days later, she says, he picked her up around the corner from her house in Gadsden, drove her about 30 minutes to his home in the woods, told her how pretty she was and kissed her. On a second visit, she says, he took off her shirt and pants and removed his clothes. He touched her over her bra and underpants, she says, and guided her hand to touch him over his underwear.
Aside from Corfman, three other women interviewed by The Washington Post in recent weeks say Moore pursued them when they were between the ages of 16 and 18 and he was in his early 30s, episodes they say they found flattering at the time, but troubling as they got older. None of the women say that Moore forced them into any sort of relationship or sexual contact.
In a written statement to the Post, Moore said: "These allegations are completely false and are a desperate political attack by the National Democrat Party and the Washington Post on this campaign."
In the September Alabama primary, Moore defeated incumbent Sen. Luther Strange, who was backed by President Donald Trump. After the vote, Trump called Moore to congratulate him. White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said later that Trump does not share Moore's views on religion and several other issues.
McConnell was not the only Republican senator on Thursday to demand that Moore step aside if the allegations are true.
Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski told NBC News she was "horrified" by the allegations, and if they were true, Moore "should step down immediately."
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., also said Moore "ought to step aside" if "there's any truth to that story."
Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey echoed Flake: "If there's a shred of truth to it, then [Moore] needs to step aside."
But while most Republicans stressed that the allegations needed to be proven before Moore should step down, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said the accounts of the four women, which were corroborated by friends and family, were enough to convince him that Moore should drop out of the race.
"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."
Moore's campaign chairman, Bill Armistead, called the story a "last ditch Hail Mary" by Moore's political opponents.
"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," said Armistead.
This is not Moore's first brush with controversy. The former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court first gained national attention in 2003, when he was removed from his position for refusing to take down a statue of the Ten Commandments, which he'd had installed in front of the state's primary judicial building.
A decade later, Moore was again elected Chief Justice, and in 2016 he was again removed from office, this time for instructing lower court judges to uphold a ban on same sex marriage, despite a Supreme Court decision which found the ban was unconstitutional.
In recent years, Moore has also argued that Muslims should be prohibited from serving in Congress, that homosexuality is "an inherent evil" and that evolution does not exist.
During the state's 2017 Senate Republican primary, Moore won the backing of Steve Bannon, former chief strategist to President Donald Trump. Bannon's endorsement came as a surprise to some conservatives, given that Trump had publicly backed Moore's opponent.