By Joseph Ax
(Reuters) — A woman has accused Roy Moore, the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate in Alabama, of initiating a sexual encounter with her when she was 14 years old, the Washington Post reported on Thursday, prompting the Republican Senate leader to call on Moore to step aside if the story turns out to be true.
Moore, the state’s former chief judge who was a 32-year-old Alabama prosecutor at the time and is now 70, vehemently denied the allegations, calling them "completely false and a desperate political attack." Reuters was unable to independently confirm any of the allegations.
"This garbage is the very definition of fake news and intentional defamation," his campaign added in the same statement.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called on Moore to drop out of the race "if these allegations are true," and several other Republicans echoed that sentiment.
Republican Senator John McCain said Moore should step aside, calling the allegations "deeply disturbing and disqualifying."
Leigh Corfman, now 53, told the Post that she met Moore outside court in 1979 when her mother was inside for a child custody hearing, after Moore offered to watch her. Moore, at the time an assistant district attorney, asked for her number and later took her to his home, where they engaged in sexual activity before she asked to be taken home, Corfman said.
The Washington Post story also quoted three other women who said Moore dated them when they were between 16 and 18 years old and he was in his early 30s, though none said they had sexual contact with Moore.
"Judge Roy Moore is winning with a double-digit lead," his campaign said. "So it is no surprise, with just over four weeks remaining, in a race for the U.S. Senate with national implications, that the Democratic Party and the country’s most liberal newspaper would come up with a fabrication of this kind.
Neither Moore nor his campaign responded to requests for further comment.
Moore, a conservative Christian, has consistently led in polls over his Democratic opponent, Doug Jones, in a state dominated by Republicans.
Jones’ campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Post story.
Moore prevailed over several Republican opponents in a closely contested primary that saw U.S. President Donald Trump, McConnell and most establishment Republicans back the incumbent, Luther Strange.
Alabama’s special election to fill the seat left vacant by Jeff Sessions, whom Trump appointed as U.S. attorney general, is Dec. 12.
Moore became a national figure in the early 2000s, when he lost his position as Alabama Chief Justice after refusing a court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from outside the courthouse.
After winning his position back in 2012, he was again forced out after defying the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage by ordering probate judges not to give marriage licenses to same-sex couples.