Shortly after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called on Republican U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore to withdraw from the special election in Alabama in response to allegations of sexual misconduct by four women, a fifth woman came forward Monday, represented by celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred.
Advertisement - story continues below
Allred – a Democrat known for representing women who make sexual-assault claims against prominent figures – introduced Beverly Young Nelson at a news conference in Madison, New York. Nelson alleges Moore sexually assaulted her in 1977 when she 16 and working as a waitress in a restaurant in Moore's hometown of Gadsden, Alabama.
Nelson said she didn't speak out previously because she feared Moore and his power but was inspired by the others who recently came forward.
Moore is the Republican nominee in a special election Dec. 12 for the Alabama U.S. Senate seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Polls show Moore's significant lead has evaporated in the wake of the allegations, with some showing him behind and others with a narrow lead over Democratic nominee Doug Jones.
Last week, the Washington Post cited four women who claimed the former judge dated them when he was in his 30s and they were teens, with one charging he initiated a sexual encounter when she was 14.
Advertisement - story continues below
Moore has called the allegations reported by the Post "completely false and a desperate political attack."
His campaign responded during the news conference Monday afternoon, denying the charges and calling Allred a "sensationalist leading a witch hunt."
Meanwhile, the top Senate Republican campaign official, Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., said Monday that the Senate should move to expel Moore it he were to win the election.
"I believe the individuals speaking out against Roy Moore spoke with courage and truth, proving he is unfit to serve in the United States Senate and he should not run for office," said Gardner. "If he refuses to withdraw and wins, the Senate should vote to expel him, because he does not meet the ethical and moral requirements of the United States Senate."
Moore campaign responds
Advertisement - story continues below
Just before news conference began, Moore's campaign chairman, Bill Armistead, issued a statement.
"Gloria Allred is a sensationalist leading a witch hunt, and she is only around to create a spectacle," he said.
Armistead emphasized Allred "was the attorney who claims credit for giving us Roe v. Wade which has resulted in the murder of tens of millions of unborn babies."
"We've said this before and we'll say it again: Judge Moore is an innocent man and has never had any sexual misconduct with anyone," he said.
Advertisement - story continues below
"This is a witch hunt against a man who has had an impeccable career for over 30 years and has always been known as a man of high character," Armistead said.
"Let it be understood: the truth will come forward, we will pursue all legal options against these false claims and Judge Moore will be vindicated."
Moore also held a press conference Monday in which he denied he knows Nelson and asserted her allegations are "absolutely false."
Allred said at her news conference that within two years of the alleged incident, Nelson told her sister Moore had attacked her. Nelson's mother, according to Allred, was told of the allegation only four years ago.
Allred, who said Nelson reached out to her, said the accuser is willing to testify under oath before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which the lawyer said should subpoena her. Allred said that if the Senate does not hold a hearing within two weeks, Nelson will agree to interviews with the media.
Nelson read a statement at the news conference in which she said that when she was 15, she knew Moore as a regular customer at the Old Hickory House restaurant in Gadsden.
At the time, Moore was the district attorney for Etowah County, she said.
Nelson said Moore regularly flirted with her, and she did not respond to him, noting she had a boyfriend. On one night in 1977, shortly after her 16th birthday, she was waiting for her boyfriend after finishing a shift, she claimed, when Moore offered to give her a ride home. Nelson explained her boyfriend was late, and she accepted Moore's offer.
She alleged that instead of taking her home, Moore drove behind the restaurant to an isolated spot and stopped the car.
Nelson said she asked Moore what he was doing.
"Instead of answering my question, Mr. Moore reached over and began groping me, putting his hands on my breasts," Nelson said. "I tried to open my car door to leave, but he reached over and locked it so I could not get out."
She said she "tried fighting him off, while yelling at him to stop, but instead of stopping he began squeezing my neck attempting to force my head onto his crotch."
"I continued to struggle," Nelson said, "I was determined that I was not going to allow him to force me to have sex with him. I was terrified. He was also trying to pull my shirt off. I thought that he was going to rape me. I was twisting and struggling and begging him to stop. I had tears running down my face."
Nelson said that at some point "he gave up" and then told her: "You are a child. I am the district attorney of Etowah County. If you tell anyone about this, no one will believe you."
She said Moore "finally allowed me to open the car door and I either fell out or he pushed me out."
"I was on the ground as he pulled out of the parking area behind the restaurant," she said. "The passenger door was open as he burned rubber pulling away leaving me laying there on the cold concrete in the dark."
Nelson said she went home and the following morning, "my neck was black and blue and purple."
She said Moore "no longer has any power over me, and I no longer live in fear of him."
As evidence, Allred presented a Gadsden High School yearbook, with Young's name engraved on the cover, that she says Moore signed just days before the alleged attack. Young said she was flattered that Moore had asked to sign the book.
The yearbook inscription reads: "To a sweeter, more beautiful girl I could not say 'Merry Christmas.' Christmas 1977. Love, Roy Moore, D.A., 12-22-77, Old Hickory House."
GOP mobilizes against Moore
On Monday evening, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, pulled his endorsement of Moore just hours after the latest allegations of sexual misconduct. He even suggested Moore should be criminally prosecuted if the allegations are true.
"As it stands, I can't urge the people of Alabama to support a campaign in the face of these charges without serious, persuasive demonstration that the charges are not true," Cruz told reporters, according to the Texas Tribune. "Both last week and this week, there are serious charges of criminal conduct that, if true, not only make him unfit to serve in the Senate but merit criminal prosecution."
Earlier Monday, McConnell spoke to reporters about the Alabama race at a tax event Monday.
"I think he should step aside," he said.
And he told WLKY in Louisville he believes the women who are accusing Moore.
Moore immediately responded to McConnell in a tweet.
"The person who should step aside is @SenateMajLdr Mitch McConnell," Moore said. "He has failed conservatives and must be replaced. #DrainTheSwamp."
With a little more than four weeks before the special election, Moore's name cannot be removed from the ballot. The state law requires 76 days notice. But Republicans could launch a write-in campaign, and Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has the authority to postpone the election.
McConnell, earlier Monday, told WLKY a write-in campaign "is an option we are looking at."
But the Senate leader did not commit to the candidate being Luther Strange, the interim incumbent appointed by Alabama's previous Republican governor.
"We'll see," McConnell said.
Even two unnamed White House officials purportedly suggested that Moore, as a sitting senator, could be ousted and replaced with Attorney General Jeff Sessions. According to the alleged proposal, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey would appoint Sessions to the seat "when it becomes vacant," according to a New York Times report.
Republican analysts view the Moore candidacy as a proxy battle between the party establishment, represented by McConnell, and former White House chief strategist Steven Bannon. Bannon has supported Moore as part of a broader effort to challenge incumbent Republicans with candidates who he believes will carry out President Trump's agenda.
Bannon has said that until there is more evidence, he's standing with Moore.
Speaking at a fundraiser in Manchester, New Hampshire, on Thursday, Bannon compared the Post's report on Moore to the "Access Hollywood" tape that was leaked during the 2016 presidential election.
"The Bezos-Amazon-Washington Post that dropped that dime on Donald Trump, is the same Bezos-Amazon-Washington Post that dropped the dime this afternoon on Judge Roy Moore. Now is that a coincidence?” Bannon asked.
"That's what I mean when I say opposition party, right? It's purely part of the apparatus of the Democratic Party. They don't make any bones about it. By the way, I don't mind it. I'll call them out every day."
In a radio interview with Sean Hannity Friday, Moore, adamantly denied the allegation by Leigh Corfman that Moore, at the age of 32, engaged in sexual touching when she was 14. But Moore left open the possibility that he dated the older teens, saying he didn't remember, before unequivocally stating he did not date any teens when he was in his 30s when Hannity asked for clarification.
Along with McConnell, Republican leaders such as former governor and presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and Ohio governor and former presidential candidate John Kasich, have called on Moore to step down.
Romney and Kasich have never been Moore supporters, but the former Alabama chief justice lost key allies in Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Steve Daines, R-Mont., who withdrew their endorsements last Friday.
"Having read the detailed description of the incidents, as well as the response from Judge Moore and his campaign, I can no longer endorse his candidacy for the US Senate," Lee wrote in a tweet.
On Friday, the National Republican Senatorial Committee backed out of a joint fundraising effort with Moore because of the allegations.
Statement from accuser who says she drank with Moore
Meanwhile, accuser Gloria Deason claims she was 18 when she drank wine with Moore and dated him when he was in his 30s. Alabama's drinking age was 19 at the time. Deason released a statement Nov. 10 through her attorney "due to the public falsehoods and defamatory remarks being made by Roy Moore."
Her statement, which was printed by Birmingham's WIAT-TV, read:
This statement is being given due to the public falsehoods and defamatory remarks being made by Roy Moore, many Alabama Republican officeholders and leaders, and Steve Bannon, regarding the motivations of Ms. Deason in describing her former relationship with Moore. She did not seek public exposure on the events described in The Washington Post article. She was contacted by the Post reporters several weeks ago. After careful consideration, and fully understanding that her character and veracity would be viciously attacked, she nonetheless agreed to go on the record and tell the truth.
Ms. Deason confirms that the The Post accurately reported the substance of her interviews with them. She does not know the other women named in the article. She is no longer a resident of Alabama. She is a registered Republican, but has no affiliation with the RNC and has not been contacted by the RNC or any Republican leaders at any time. The same is true for the DNC and Democratic leaders. She does not know Doug Jones, has not been contacted at any point by him or anyone associated with his campaign nor made any financial contributions to him.
There is nothing about being public regarding her relationship with Roy Moore that will enhance Ms. Deason's life. She did not seek the limelight. No glory, no financial compensation, no justice. But she stands firmly on the truth. No one can take that away from her. No one.
And Roy Moore knows the truth. Notably, he has not denied knowing Ms. Deason, or pursuing and dating her when she was 18 and he was in his mid-thirties. He has not denied plying her with alcohol knowing in his position as a district attorney that she was younger than the legal drinking age. He has not given a press conference or opened himself up to questions on his relationship with Ms. Deason or the other women named in the article. He appears to be in hiding while issuing incendiary statements about the women, calling them "evil" and accusing them of bribery and conspiracy with the DNC. He has also sent emails to his supporters using this as a reason to request more financial contributions for his campaign.
It is reprehensible that so many Alabama Republican officeholders and leaders of their party have rejected wholesale the magnitude of evidence reported in The Post. Worse yet, they claim that even if they believed the statements of pedophilia and sexual assault, specifically against Leigh Corfman (the 14 year old), to be true, they don't find it to be illegal or immoral conduct by Moore. A 14 year old cannot legally give consent for sex. In short, these leaders don’t care. This is a stunning admission that the GOP is not a party of family values, certainly not in Alabama. And Steve Bannon's ridiculous statement that Moore’s misconduct is akin to "locker room talk" deserves no response. It fails on its face.
For those critical of these 4 women for not voluntarily coming forward earlier, ask yourselves what difference it would have made. Republicans in Alabama, the Christian conservatives of the Deep South, are saying that they don't care if Roy Moore's predatory sexual child pursuits are true. It's no big deal to them that Moore abused his position of power as a district attorney and committed crimes against teenage women.