WASHINGTON – Roy Moore, a Republican running for one of Alabama’s two seats in the US Senate, was accused on Thursday of having had sexual contact in 1979 with a adolescent girl who was 18 years his junior.
The outspoken conservative is favored to defeat Democrat Doug Jones in the contest to fill the vacancy left when Jeff Sessions left the Senate to serve as attorney general in the Trump administration.
Leigh Corfman, now 53, told The Washington Post that Moore, then a 32-year-old assistant district attorney, spoke to her as she was sitting on a bench with her mother, Nancy Wells, outside a courtroom in Alabama’s Etowah County.
On learning that Wells was at the courthouse for a custody hearing, Moore urged her to leave 14-year-old Leigh with him.
While Wells was in the courtroom, Moore asked for Corfman’s telephone number and he subsequently arranged to pick her up and take her to his home, according to the woman’s account.
During a second encounter at Moore’s residence, he kissed the girl, removed her clothes and touched her over her underwear, Corfman told the Post, adding that he complied when she asked him to take her home.
The newspaper reported two friends of Corfman said that she talked at the time about seeing an older man, while Wells said that Leigh revealed the episode to her in the earlier 1990s, when Moore was a well-known local judge.
Three other women told the Post that Moore romanced them when they were between the ages of 16 and 18 and he was in his 30s.
Moore, who is now 70, issued a statement Thursday categorically denying the allegations.
“These allegations are completely false and are a desperate political attack by the National Democrat Party and the Washington Post on this campaign,” he said.
Even so, a number of prominent Republicans appeared to distance themselves from Moore, a former Alabama Supreme Court justice.
“If these allegations are true, he must step aside,” Senate Majority Leader McConnell said in a formal statement on behalf of all Republican senators.
Republican Sens. Cory Gardner, Lisa Murkowski, Jeff Flake, David Perdue, John Thune and Patrick Toomey expressed similar sentiments individually.