US President Donald Trump says Republican Senate hopeful Roy Moore should “step aside” and withdraw from his race if allegations of sexual misconduct with teens against him are proven true.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders made the announcement in statement on Friday, after the politician stood accused of initiating a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old girl and three others around the same age in the US state of Alabama when he was in his early 30s.
“Like most Americans the president believes we cannot allow a mere allegation, in this case one from many years ago, to destroy a person’s life,” Sanders said aboard Air Force One, before Trump landed in Vietnam for an international summit.
“However, the president also believes that if these allegations are true, Judge Moore will do the right thing and step aside,” she noted.
Sanders, however, said the US president will “remain focused,” and not be distracted by the report during his five-nation tour of Asia.
In a Washington Post article published a day earlier, four women claimed that Moore had pursued relationships with them as teenagers when he was in his thirties working as an assistant district attorney.
Speaking on the record, Leigh Corfman, now 53, said when she was 14, Moore took her into his house in the woods near Gadsden in 1979, Alabama, kissed her, took off her clothes and his own, and started fondling her. The legal age of consent in that state is 16.
Three other women also talked to the paper. They said that the former judge had approached them around a similar time, when they were between the ages of 16 and 18. The Post said it had based the accusations on interviews with more than 30 people, including mothers and friends of the girls.
Moore’s campaign has denied the report, saying in a statement that, “This garbage is the very definition of fake news and intentional defamation.”
“These allegations are completely false and are a desperate political attack by the National Democrat Party and the Washington Post on this campaign,” the 70-year-old Moore said.
With only a month to go before the Senate election on December 12, Republicans responded swiftly to the story and called for Moore’s withdrawal.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that if the accusations are accurate, Moore should drop out of the race. “If these allegations are true, he must step aside.”
Vice President Mike Pence’s office issued its own statement on Moore, saying, “The vice president found the allegations in the story disturbing and believes, if true, this would disqualify anyone from serving in office.”
Washington Post has an axe to grind in reporting allegations: Bannon
Meanwhile, former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon likened Moore’s allegations report to last year’s publication of the infamous tape, in which Trump is heard bragging about sexually abusing women. After the release of the tape, 11 women came forward to accuse the 2016 presidential candidate of sexual harassment.
“It’s interesting. The Bezos-Amazon-Washington Post that dropped that dime on Donald Trump is the same Bezos-Amazon-Washington Post that dropped a dime this afternoon on Judge RoyMoore,” Bannon said during a speech in New Hampshire.
“Is that a coincidence? That’s what I mean when I say it’s the opposition party. It’s purely part of the apparatus of the Democratic Party. They don’t make any bones about it,” he added. “By the way, I don’t mind it. I’m going to call them out everyday. It’s not a fair and free media anymore .”
The embarrassing video was recorded in 2005 while Trump was on a bus with former “Access Hollywood” host Billy Bush.