U.S. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell on Monday called on Alabama Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore, who is backed by former Trump chief cousel Steve Bannon, to "step aside," saying he believed the woman who accused Moore of inappropriate sexual contact, the Associated Press reported.
The Washington Post reported on Thursday on allegations that Moore initiated sexual contact with a 14-year-old girl when he was in his 30s.
McConnell had previously said Moore should step aside if the allegations were proven true.
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"I believe the women. Yes," he said, according to a video of his session with reporters.
Moore has refused to leave the race and said on Twitter that McConnell was the person who should step down. "He has failed conservatives and must be replaced," Moore said.
Other national Republicans also have backed away from Moore. The Republican Senate campaign arm on Friday severed its fund-raising relationship with him for the special election to fill a seat vacated by Jeff Sessions when he became U.S. attorney general earlier this year.
"I stand with the Majority Leader on this," Utah Republican Senator Orrin Hatch tweeted on Monday. "These are serious and disturbing allegations."
But the state party and many other Alabama Republicans have not wavered in their support of Moore, who scored a decisive primary victory in September over Luther Strange, who was appointed to fill the Sessions seat on an interim basis and was supported by President Donald Trump.
Moore, a Republican who had been a heavy favorite to win the election against Democrat Doug Jones, has denied the Washington Post story detailing allegations of sexual misconduct against him and portrayed them as a smear by his political opponents.
"This article is a prime example of fake news," Moore said on Saturday in Alabama. "We do not intend to let anyone behind this story stop this campaign. We fully expect the people of Alabama to see through this charade."
The Moore-Jones race had been seen as a long shot for Democrats in Alabama, which has not elected a Democratic senator in a quarter century. Jones, a former federal prosecutor, was trailing by double digits in some opinion polls.
A Democratic win in Alabama would be a blow to President Donald Trump's agenda and shift the political outlook for next year's midterm elections, giving Democrats a shot at gaining the three seats they need to recapture control of the U.S. Senate.
McConnell's statement comes days after Bannon had put a target on his back, telling the New York Times on Wednesday, "I’m to the point that I think Mitch McConnell, to really bring unity to the Republican Party and get things done, I think Mitch McConnell ought to tender his resignation."
McConnel responded on Sunday saying, "I laughed. Ha-ha. That’s a perfect response.”