A number of Alabama Republican officials dismissed allegations of sexual misconduct against their Senate GOP nominee, former judge Roy Moore, as suspect and overblown on Thursday.
Leigh Corfman told The Washington Post that Moore, then a 32-year-old assistant district attorney, took off her shirt and pants and removed his own clothes in one 1979 incident. He touched her through her bra and led her hands to touch him through his underwear, she said. She was 14 at the time.
Three other women who spoke to the Post ― for a deeply reported article that was published Thursday ― said Moore had "asked them on dates when they were between 16 and 18 and he was in his early 30s."
While most Senate Republicans immediately distanced themselves from Moore, maintaining that he ought to withdraw from the race if the allegations are true, GOP officials in Alabama stood by the prominent Ten Commandments advocate.
"He's clean as a hound's tooth," Alabama State Auditor Jim Ziegler said in an interview with The Washington Examiner, before invoking the Bible to defend Moore.
"Zachariah and Elizabeth for instance. Zachariah was extremely old to marry Elizabeth and they became the parents of John the Baptist," Ziegler said. "Also take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus."
Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill called the sexual allegations against Moore "just another piece of information that will allow [voters] to make their decision." He further questioned the timing and source of the Post's report.
"It's odd to me that this information has just been introduced," Merrill told HuffPost. "In all the campaigns Judge Moore has ever run before ― and he has run a lot of them, probably a dozen campaigns ― it's very, very odd to me this information has just been introduced."
Alabama is home to many "outstanding news people," Merrill added, and "not one of those people has ever been able to" unearth the allegations in the Post story.
Madison County GOP Chairman Sam Givhan echoed the sentiment.
"I'm obviously suspicious. After all, some of these allegations are 40 years old," Givhan told HuffPost. "The man's been elected twice. Run two other times. Never came up before. Pretty amazing, the timing of this."
Other Alabama county GOP chairmen cast doubt on the allegations ― and expressed their unwillingness to vote for the Democrats' nominee, Doug Jones ― in interviews with Toronto Star reporter Daniel Dale:
Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, a Moore supporter who's running for governor, did not take such a dismissive attitude, saying that the former judge "does not need to be the Republican candidate for Senate" if the allegations are proven to be true.
Alabama law prohibits withdrawal of a candidate's name within 76 days of the election, so Moore's name will remain on the ballot regardless of whether he steps down. Indeed, given his well of support in the deep-red state, not to mention his dominant position in the polls ahead of the Dec. 12 election, it's hard to see Moore going anywhere.
"Unfortunately, there's probably still a pretty good chance [he will win]," a Republican who founded the Facebook group "Republicans for Doug Jones" told HuffPost. The page has more than 1,300 followers.
"People are so stuck in that two-party mentality that it's [hard] to break out of that mold," said the individual, who had supported Donald Trump. "A lot of the resistance that I'm hearing from people who are Republicans and still say they'll vote for Moore is the whole abortion thing [and Jones' position on it]."
Andy Campbell and Amanda Terkel contributed reporting.