Republican Senate hopeful accused of sexual misconduct with teen

Washington, Nov 10 (IANS): Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore has been accused by a woman of initiating a sexual encounter with her when she was 14 years old and he was 32, prompting top party members to say he should pull out of the race if the allegations were true.

Alabama Republican Moore denied the allegations, reported by the Washington Post on Thursday and called the report a "completely false and desperate political attack".

"These allegations are completely false and are a desperate political attack by the National Democrat Party and the Washington Post on this campaign," Moore said.

An Alabama woman, Leigh Corfman, now 53, said she was 14 years old when she met Moore in 1979, after he offered to babysit her while her mother attended a custody hearing at the courthouse where he worked.

Cumford said Moore pursued a relationship with her, and brought her to his apartment multiple times, where he engaged in sexual behaviour with her that made Cumford deeply uncomfortable.

A defiant Moore emailed his supporters hours after the accusations were made and wrote: "I refuse to stand down."

Responding to the allegations, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said: "President Donald Trump 'believes we cannot allow a mere allegation, in this case one from many years ago, to destroy a person's life'."

"However, the President also believes that if these allegations are true, Judge Moore will do the right thing and step aside," Sanders said on board Air Force One en route to Vietnam.

Reactions from Capitol Hill came in quickly as well. "If these allegations are true, he must step aside," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

"The allegations against Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore are deeply troubling," said Senator Cory Gardner, the Chairman of the National Republican Senate Committee.

"If these allegations are found to be true, Roy Moore must drop out of the Alabama special Senate election."

Senator John McCain called for Moore to "immediately step aside".

Vice President Mike Pence's Press Secretary Alyssa Farah said Pence "found the allegations in the story disturbing and believes, if true, this would disqualify anyone from serving in office".

According to the Post, three other women in an interview said that Moore pursued them when they were between the ages of 16 and 18 and he was in his early 30s. But, none said that he forced them into any sort of relationship or sexual contact.

Moore, a former Alabama Chief Justice who was twice removed from his post, defeated Trump-backed Senator Luther Strange in a September primary runoff to become the GOP's Senate nominee.

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