President Donald Trump signaled a major shift in the White House's position Tuesday on Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, repeatedly saying Moore "totally denies" the allegations of sexual misconduct against him and panning his Democratic opponent Doug Jones as "terrible."
Several women have accused Moore of pursuing relationships with them as teenagers when he was in his 30s; one woman alleges she was 14 when a 32-year-old Moore initiated a sexual encounter with her. Another said he violently tried to make her perform oral sex on him when she was 16.
Moore has denied the allegations and said he still stay in the race. Top Republicans have called for Moore to leave the race, and initially the White House indicated Moore should step aside if the allegations were true.
But White House counselor Kellyanne Conway suggested the administration was backing Moore this week, and Trump hit a similar tone on Tuesday while speaking to reporters outside the White House.
"I can tell you one thing for sure. We don't need a liberal person in there, a Democrat. Jones, I've looked at his record," Trump said. "It's terrible on crime. It's terrible on the border. It's terrible on the military. I can tell you for a fact, we do not need somebody that's going to be bad on crime, bad on borders, bad with the military, bad for the Second Amendment."
A reporter asked Trump if an "accused child molester" was better than a Democrat.
"Well, he denies it," Trump said. "Look, he denies it. If you look at what is really going on and you look at all the things that have happened over the past 48 hours, he totally denies it. He said it didn't happen. And you have to listen to him also."
When a reporter brought up accusations of sexual misconduct made against Trump, Trump ignored it and said, "He denies it."
Asked for his message to women amidst the flood of stories about sexual harassment by powerful men in politics, media and Hollywood, Trump said women were "very special" and called it a "very special time."
"A lot of things are coming out, and I think that's good for our society, and I think it's very, very good for women, and I'm very happy a lot of these things are coming out, and I'm very happy it's being exposed," he said.
Of the sexual harassment allegations against Democratic Sen. Al Franken (D., Minn.), Trump said Franken should speak for himself.
Later in the gaggle, he reiterated Moore "denies" the claims made against him.
"By the way, he gives a total denial, and I do have to say 40 years is a long time. He's run eight races, and this has never come up," he said. "The women are Trump voters. Most of them are Trump voters. All you can do is you have to do what you have to do. He totally denies it."