At a news conference in Birmingham, Alabama, Thursday afternoon, U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore once again strongly denied allegations of sexual misconduct against him and accused Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of trying to steal the election.
Moore, who faces allegations now from eight accusers, including two claims of sexual assault, joked that he has "unified Democrats and Republicans in fighting against me."
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He called the allegations reported last week by the Washington Post "scurrilous," noting he has "emphatically denied them again and again."
"They are not only are untrue, but they have no evidence to support them," he said.
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He chastised McConnell for calling on him to withdraw as the Republican nominee in the special election Dec. 12 for the Alabama U.S. Senate seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
"Many of you have recognized that this is an effort by Mitch McConnell and his cronies to steal this election from the people of Alabama, and they will not stand for it," he said.
He said he overcame a "$30 million effort" to defeat him in the primary against the Republican leadership's candidate, appointed Sen. Luther Strange, and "now they are trying a different tactic."
Moore said there's only one person who needs to step down, "and that's Mitch McConnell."
"There have been comments about me taking a stand," he said. "Yes, I have taken a stand. I'll take a stand in the future, and I'll quit standing when they lay me in that box and put me in the ground."
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On Wednesday night, ABC News reported an Alabama woman, Becky Gray, accused Moore of sexually harassing her in the late 1970s and said he was banned from the mall where she worked after she complained of his repeated, unwanted advances. Also Wednesday, AL.com reported a Gadsden, Alabama, woman, Tina Johnson, claimed Moore groped her while she was in his law office on legal business with her mother in 1991.
WND reported Monday Beverly Young Nelson, at a news conference in New York City with celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred, alleged Moore sexually assaulted her in 1977 when she 16 and working as a waitress in a restaurant in Moore's hometown of Gadsden. 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.
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Gray told ABC she has grown increasingly frustrated with critics who continue to question the veracity of the claims of other women.
"These women have no reason to lie about their sexual encounters ... so I just don't understand people that don't believe that it's true. There's a lot of shame to this, and for those women who did have sexual encounters with Moore, I commend them for coming out -- I really do. It's about time."
Gray said she found it strange that a grown man was hanging around the Gadsden Mall on weekend nights.
"Every Friday and Saturday night, he was down at the mall. Nobody his age is at the mall! You know, parents are dropping off their 12-year-olds and 13-year olds, 14-year-olds. I mean, come on, I just thought that was really creepy even way back then," she said.
Gray said she shared her allegations with co-workers and family members over the years but didn’t come forward publicly until the Washington Post report.
"I [have] repeated this story ... many times. People who know me know what I've always said about him, and that he was not Christian, and that he was a pervert," she said.
Colleagues and others who knew Moore told the Washington Post he often walked alone around the Gadsden Mall. Wendy Miller told the Post she was 14 and working as Santa's helper at the mall in 1977 when Moore first spoke with her and told her she looked pretty. When she was 16, he asked her out on dates, but her mother didn't permit it, she said. Another resident told the Post Moore flirted with young girls Friday and Saturday night, and another recalled being told by an employee at the mall to watch out for Moore.
Barnes Boyle, who was the Gadsden Mall manager from 1981 to 1996 and said he plans to vote for Moore, told WBRC-TV in Birmingham he didn't recall Moore being banned from the mall. But Gray claimed he was banned in the late 1970s.
In interviews with AL.com published Wednesday, Johnson recalls that in the fall of 1991 she sat in Moore's law office in Gadsden with her mother, Mary Katherine Cofield. Johnson said that almost from the moment she walked in to Moore's office, he began flirting with her.
"He kept commenting on my looks, telling me how pretty I was, how nice I looked," said Johnson. "He was saying that my eyes were beautiful."
When the meeting was over, and Johnson's mother had already left the room, Johnson said Moore came up behind her and grabbed her buttocks.
"He didn't pinch it; he grabbed it," said Johnson.
She was so surprised she didn't say anything and didn't tell her mother, AL.com reported. She said she told her sister years later that Moore had made her feel uncomfortable during the meeting. Her sister confirmed to AL.com she remembers the conversation.
AL.com on Wednesday also featured an interview with Kelly Harrison Thorp, who said she was 17 and working as a hostess at the Red Lobster restaurant in Gadsden in 1982 when Moore came into the restaurant one day.
She said she recognized Moore, who was in his early 30s, as a public figure.
Thorp told AL.com that Moore asked her if she would go out with him sometime.
"I just kind of said, 'Do you know how old I am?'" she recalled.
"And he said, 'Yeah. I go out with girls your age all the time.'"
Thorp said she turned him down, explaining she had a boyfriend, and he walked away.
She said she knows one of Moore's accusers, Leigh Corfman, who told the Washington Post of a sexual encounter with Moore when she was 14. Thorp said she believes Corfman and is proud of her for telling her story publicly.
In a radio interview with Sean Hannity Friday, Moore, adamantly denied the allegation by Corfman. But Moore left open the possibility that he dated the older teens who had come forward, 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.
On Tuesday, Hannity delivered an ultimatum to Moore, saying the former judge needed to explain the discrepancy in the Friday interview and the evidence Allred and Nelson presented at their news conference Monday, a Gadsden High School yearbook that Nelson says Moore signed just days before the alleged attack.
Moore's attorney, Phillip L. Jauregui, at a news conference Wednesday, asked Allred to turn over the yearbook for inspection by a handwriting expert, because his team believes the inscription is a forgery. Taking no questions, Jauregui also claimed Nelson falsely asserted she had had no contact with Moore since the alleged 1977 incident, pointing out Moore presided over her divorce case in 1999. However, court documents show another judge also was involved in the case, and there was no hearing, meaning there is no evidence that Nelson was in a court room with Moore.
Breitbart News reported an attorney for Moore delivered a letter to Allred on Thursday giving her 48 hours to release the yearbook to the custody of an independent examiner. The letter also demanded that Allred and Nelson issue a "full and fair public retraction" of all "false statements" concerning Moore.
In his reply to Hannity, Moore wrote: "My signature on the order of dismissal in the divorce case was annotated with the letters 'D.A.,' representing the initials of my court assistant. Curiously the supposed yearbook inscription is also followed by the same initials—'D.A.' But at that time I was Deputy District Attorney, not district attorney."
Moore said he believed the "initials as well as the date under the signature block and the printed name of the restaurant are written in a style inconsistent with the rest of the yearbook inscription."
On his Wednesday night Fox News Channel program, Hannity responded to Moore's letter.
The host said allegations against Moore "are beyond disturbing and serious," but he said more time is needed to make a conclusion and, ultimately, the people of Alabama will decide.
"I am very confident that when everything comes out, they will make the best decision for their state," Hannity said.
Republicans exploring options
Meanwhile, with a growing number of Republican leaders urging Moore to step aside as polls indicate he has lost his substantial lead over Democrat Doug Jones, the party's leadership is exploring options to salvage the Alabama Senate seat, Politico reports.
Politico said, however, that McConnell aides express caution, saying they're uncertain the move is possible, and they are discussing several options.
A survey conducted by the National Republican Senatorial Committee after the allegations against Moore emerged showed him trailing Jones by 12 points, although other recent polling has the race closer.
Politico said McConnell’s team had proposed asking Sessions, who held the Alabama seat for two decades prior to becoming attorney general, to run as a write-in candidate.
But the committee's polling found that a write-in candidacy likely would split the Republican vote and ensure a Jones victory.
Republicans currently have a narrow 52-48 majority in the Senate.
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."
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.
Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, are among the Republican lawmakers who have withdrawn their support of Moore.
Cruz said Monday evening: "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.
"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," Cruz told reporters, according to the Texas Tribune.
Last Friday, Lee wrote in a tweet: "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."
On Friday, the National Republican Senatorial Committee backed out of a joint fundraising effort with Moore because of the allegations.
However, after being largely silent on the allegations against Moore, Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan said Thursday the state party supports him and trusts voters to make the "ultimate decision" in the Dec. 12 U.S. Senate election, AL.com reported
The 21-member the Alabama Republican Party Steering Committee met Wednesday to discuss the allegations.
"Alabamians will be the ultimate jury in this election -- not the media or those from afar," Lathan said in a statement.
Thursday night, the 5th District Congressional District GOP Executive Committee of Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., voted unanimously to back Moore.
Leaders of a number of Christian organizations joined Moore at the press conference Thursday in Birmingham and presented a letter declaring their support.
"We stand with Judge Roy Moore, a man of integrity who has never wavered from his valiant defense of the unborn, the Ten Commandments, and the Constitution. We are confident the voters of Alabama will not be fooled by suspiciously timed accusations without evidence and will reject the politics of personal destruction led by the Washington Post," the letter stated.
Moore's pastor, Stephen Broden, said he has no reason to doubt him.
"Friends, I know the man and he is a man of character," he said.
Former U.N. ambassador Alan Keyes of Renew America said he backs Moore because "we are creatures of god" and have a "duty to do what is right."
Janet Porter, president of Faith2Action, said she is a close friend of the Moore family and calls the accusations an "assassination led by the media"
"Why does the enemies of faith and liberty hate this man so much?" she asked.
Nelson explained at the news conference Monday that she didn't speak out previously because she feared Moore and his power but was inspired by the others who had came forward.
Just before news conference began, Moore's campaign chairman, Bill Armistead, issued a statement calling Allred "a sensationalist leading a witch hunt, and she is only around to create a spectacle."
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.
"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."
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 Olde 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, Olde Hickory House."