WASHINGTON — Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, said Monday that Roy Moore, the Republican Senate candidate in Alabama, “should step aside” and that he believes the women who have accused Moore of sexual misconduct when they were teenagers.
“I believe the women, yes,” McConnell, R-Ky., said at a news conference in Louisville, Kentucky.
McConnell also said that encouraging a write-in candidate to run in the Dec. 12 special election is “an option we’re looking at.”
Moore, a judge who was twice removed from the state’s high court, first for refusing to remove the Ten Commandments from the Supreme Court grounds, then for refusing to accept same-sex marriage, responded defiantly. He showed no sign of leaving the race before Alabama’s Dec. 12 special election date.
Republicans here and in Alabama have been up in arms over the accusations, published last week in The Washington Post, that Moore pursued sexual or romantic relationships with teenagers when he was in his 30s. The reports have upended a race in a state that has not elected a Democratic senator in 20 years.
And the issue shows no sign of quieting down. At 2:30 p.m. Monday, New York lawyer Gloria Allred, who has made her name by championing victims of sexual harassment, will publicly introduce a new woman accusing Moore of sexual impropriety.
“The new accuser wishes to state what she alleges Roy Moore did to her without her consent,” a news release from Allred said.
But with McConnell now firmly against his election, Moore and his candidacy promise to deepen the divide between Republican leaders in Congress and the populist wing of the party that is standing by the Alabamian. Steve Bannon, President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, has continued to back Moore, even dispatching reporters from his website Breitbart.com to discredit the candidate’s accusers.
In a fundraising appeal, Moore reached out to his supporters with the subject line: “Mitch McConnell’s plot to destroy me.”
“Apparently Mitch McConnell and the establishment GOP would rather elect a radical pro-abortion Democrat than a conservative Christian,” he went on.
For their part, Democrats have begun raising money in earnest for the Democratic candidate, Doug Jones, a former prosecutor who sent Ku Klux Klansmen to jail for the infamous Birmingham church bombing of 1963 that killed four young girls.