U.S. President Donald Trump all but endorsed embattled Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore on Tuesday, saying the former state judge “totally denies” allegations that he sexually molested underage girls years ago.
“I can tell you one thing for sure: We don’t need a liberal person in there, a Democrat,” Trump told reporters at the White House.
Moore’s opponent in the Senate race, Democrat Doug Jones, has a record that is “terrible on crime, it’s terrible on the border, it’s terrible on the military,” Trump said.
Trump said he would announce next week whether he will campaign on the Republican candidate’s behalf.
Moore’s campaign has been in turmoil since The Washington Post published a story detailing the accounts of three women who claimed he pursued them while they were teenagers and he was in his 30s. Three more women have since spoken out with allegations of their own.
Moore has adamantly rejected accusations of sexual abuse, but prominent Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, and two former presidential candidates, Senator John McCain of Arizona and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, have called for him to end his candidacy.
Trump, himself the subject of sexual abuse allegations during his 2016 presidential campaign, which he said were false, had said little about the accusations against Moore until Tuesday. White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday that Trump thought it was “up to the people of Alabama who their next senator will be.”
But earlier, White House adviser Kellyanne Conway described Jones as a “doctrinaire liberal” who would vote against tax cuts the Trump administration is pushing Congress to adopt.
Asked whether the White House was asking people to vote for Moore, Conway deflected the question, but said, “I’m telling you we want the votes in the Senate to get this tax bill through.”
One of Moore’s accusers, Leigh Corfman, told NBC on Monday that it took her decades before she regained her sense of trust and confidence in herself after the 1979 encounter she alleges she had with him.
Now 53, Corfman said she was “a 14-year-old child trying to play in an adult’s world” but that she “didn’t deserve to have a 32-year-old man prey upon” her.
“I was expecting candlelight and roses; what I got was very different,” she said. “I felt guilty. I felt like I was the one to blame.
“I met him around the corner from my house — my mother did not know — and he took me to his home,” Corfman said. “After arriving at his home on the second occasion that I went with him, he basically laid out some blankets on the floor of his living room and proceeded to … seduce me, I guess you would say.”
Corfman’s accusations against Moore first appeared in the Post more than a week ago.
She told the newspaper that Moore took off her “shirt and pants and removed his clothes,” touched her over her bra and underpants and guided her hand to touch him over his underwear before she ended the encounter. She asked him to take her home, and he did.
Moore leads an expanding list of lawmakers accused of sexual misconduct. On Monday, the website BuzzFeed alleged that longtime U.S. Representative John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat, paid $27,000 to a woman who alleged that he’d fired her from his Washington staff after she rebuffed his sexual overtures.
Conyers, 88, at first denied the report, then on Tuesday he acknowledged the settlement, which he said he made to avoid protracted litigation. But he continued to deny he had sexually harassed the woman.
Ryan, the leader of the majority Republicans in the chamber, called the allegation “extremely troubling. People who work in the House deserve and are entitled to a workplace without harassment or discrimination.”
Leaders of the House Ethics Committee said they were opening an investigation into the allegations, including whether Conyers had used official resources for impermissible personal purposes. Conyers said he would fully cooperate.