Alabama's GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore spoke out for the first time on Friday since four women in an explosive Washington Post story accused him of pursuing them when they were in their teens and he was in his 30s.
"These allegations are completely false and misleading," Moore said Friday on the conservative Sean Hannity's radio show.
The allegations -- particularly the account of Leigh Corfman, who claimed Moore touched her sexually when she was 14 and he was 32 -- have rocked Washington, prompting a number of top Republicans to call for Moore to step down ahead of next month's special election. The National Republican Senatorial Committee has dropped outwith Moore's campaign.
Speaking to Hannity Friday, Moore specifically denied the detailed allegations by Corfman, who says Moore undressed her, moved his hand over her bra and guided her hand over his underwear. Moore claimed he does not even know her.
"I don't know Miss Corfman from anybody," Moore said, calling the accusations "politically motivated."
"It never happened, and I don't even like hearing it because it never happened, and they're doing this a month away," Moore said, mentioning the upcoming election and his 40 years of public service.
Moore, asked if he would have dated women in their teens when he was in his 30s, told Hannity, "Not generally, no." Moore did say he dated "a lot of young ladies" when he returned home from the military in his 30s. Moore was fuzzier on his interactions with the other women who accused him of pursuing them in their teens.
Regarding one of the women, Debbie Wesson Gibson who said she was 17 at the time, Moore said he remembered her but didn't remember if they dated.
"I know her but I don't remember going out on dates. I know her as a friend. If we did go out on dates then we did," Moore said.
Moore said he and his associates are conducting an investigation into the allegations.
"This has waited over 40 years to bring a complaint four weeks out of an election," Moore said. "It's obvious to the casual observer something's up. We're also doing an investigation and we have some evidence of some collusion here but we're not ready to put that to public just yet."
"This is a completely manufactured story meant to defrock this campaign," Moore also said.
On Thursday, Hannity was forced to walk back comments he made on radio agreeing that Corfman's claim was a "consensual" event if it happened, even though Corfman described her discomfort with the situation and minors cannot legally consent.
On Friday, Moore issued a lengthy written statement to The Washington Post:
"Yesterday, I made a statement that the allegations described in a Washington Post article against me about sexual impropriety were false.
It has been a tough 24 hours because my wife and I were blindsided by an article based on a lie supported by innuendo.
It seems that in the political arena, to say that something is not true is simply not good enough.
So let me be clear.
I have never provided alcohol to minors, and I have never engaged in sexual misconduct. As a father of a daughter and a grandfather of five granddaughters, I condemn the actions of any man who engages in sexual misconduct not just against minors but against any woman.
I also believe that any person who has been abused should feel the liberty to come forward and seek protection.
I know that a lot of people wonder why this story was written. Why would women say these things if they are not true? I can't fully answer that because as much as I have disagreed vehemently on political issues with many people over the years, I cannot understand the mentality of using such a dangerous lie to try to personally destroy someone.
As a former judge and administer of the law, I take the protection of our innocent as one of my most sacred callings. False allegations are gravely serious and will have a profound consequence on those who are truly harassed or molested.
I strongly urge the Washington Post, and everyone involved, to tell the truth.
That is all we can do, and I trust that the people of Alabama, who know my record after 40 years of public service, will vouch for my character and commitment to the rule of law."
Many Republican lawmakers are couching their statements distancing themselves from Moore with some version of an "if true" approach.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the president believes Moore will do the "right thing" and. Vice President press secretary, Alyssa Farah, told CBS News Pence found the allegations "disturbing" and if they're true, would disqualify "anyone" from serving in office.
But in Alabama, CBS News is finding people who back up Corfman's story.
Tony Hathcock, who self-identifies as "very conservative" and lives near Corfman in Gadsden, Alabama, said he's known her well for five years and believes her because she is very honest, very conservative, and a Republican voter. Cofrman herself claims she voted for Mr. Trump.
"I believe her story and to see her attacked was really hurtful. I've never known her to be dishonest about anything," Hathcock told CBS News.
Hathcock said he knows Corfman to be a Republican, so it wouldn't make any sense for her to speak out of it wasn't true. Corfman, he said, has nothing to gain. He said Corfman said no one has offered her anything to speak out, but she felt safer speaking out now because "her children are grown and they can handle it."
Hathcock said growing up in Gadsden, he always heard rumors about Moore, so these allegations are not new. He said Corfman told many mutual friends the same story.
With a mere few weeks before the December election, Moore's campaign is not backing down. Moore's campaign began fundraising almost immediately after the accusations surfaced, saying, "the forces of evil are on the march in our country."
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