U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, on Thursday called allegations that Republican U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore of Alabama had a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old girl in 1979 and pursued other teens as an older adult “deeply disturbing,” according to media reports.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, called the allegations “troubling.”
The 14-year-old said Moore drove her to his home and touched her sexually. Three other women claim Moore pursued them when they were “between the ages of 16 and 18 and he was in his early 30s,” according to The Washington Post. None of the women said they had sexual intercourse with Moore, though, and the age of consent at the time and now is 16, the Post reported.
“This troubling news is so recent that people are trying to understand what hit us,” Cornyn told reporters, according to Politico. “I think people are trying to sort it out and figure out what the appropriate response is, including Sen. (Luther) Strange (R-Ala.).”
“If it is true, I don’t think his candidacy is sustainable,” Cornyn added, according to the Politico report. “But we believe in a presumption of innocence until proven guilty. And so I think it’s important for the facts to come out.”
Cornyn and Cruz have endorsed Moore, twice his state’s chief justice and twice removed from the position — the first time, in 2003, for refusing to remove a monument to the Ten Commandments from the state’s judicial building, despite a federal court order. In 2016, he was suspended for the remainder of his term after he ordered lower courts and encouraged state officials in Alabama to disregard federal rulings that overturned same-sex marriage bans. He resigned in April 2016 to run for the Senate.
Aside from the latest allegations and his fights on the bench, Moore has had plenty of other controversial moments that make Democrats think they have a shot at taking the deeply red state’s Senate seat.
Moore has said God should not be separate from government and blamed the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the nation’s lacking relationship with God. He’s also said “homosexual conduct” should be illegal.
Cruz called on Moore to step aside if the allegations are true.
“These are serious and troubling allegations,” he said in a statement to the American-Statesman. “If they are true, Judge Moore should immediately withdraw. However, we need to know the truth, and Judge Moore has the right to respond to these accusations.”
Several other Republican senators share Cruz’s position, but bucking the “if true” caveat many used, U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona called for Moore to step aside.
“The allegations against Roy Moore are deeply disturbing and disqualifying,” McCain said in a tweet. “He should immediately step aside and allow the people of Alabama to elect a candidate they can be proud of.”
But an official from the Alabama secretary of state’s office has reportedly said it’s too late to remove him from the ballot.
As it stands now, Moore will face Democrat Doug Jones, a former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, on Dec. 12 to complete the rest of now-U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ term. Sessions was re-elected to the Senate seat in 2014, which means the winner in December would have to run for the seat again in 2020 to hold it.