WASHINGTON — A second woman emerged Monday to accuse Roy Moore of sexually assaulting her as a teenager in the late 1970s, this time in a locked car, further roiling the Alabama Republican's candidacy for an open Senate seat. Moore strongly denied it, even as his own party's leaders intensified their efforts to push him out of the race.
Sens. John Barrasso and Mike Enzi of Wyoming both said Monday that Moore should withdraw from the race.
“These are disturbing and credible accusations," Barrasso said. "I believe Judge Moore should step aside immediately. If he doesn’t, it’s ultimately up to the people of Alabama to decide who they want to represent them in the U.S. Senate."
A spokesman for Enzi told the Star-Tribune, "Given the serious and disturbing accusations, Senator Enzi believes that Roy Moore should withdraw from the Senate race."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took a remarkably personal swipe at his party's candidate for a Senate seat the GOP cannot afford to lose. "I believe the women," he said, marking an intensified effort by leaders to ditch Moore before a Dec. 12 special election that has swung from an assured GOP victory to one that Democrats could conceivably swipe.
Moore abruptly called a news conference in Gallant, Alabama, after a tearful Beverly Young Nelson's detailed the new allegations to reporters in New York.
"I can tell you without hesitation this is absolutely false. I never did what she said I did. I don't even know the woman," Moore said.
He signaled he has no intention of ending his candidacy, calling the latest charges a "political maneuver" and launching a fundraising appeal to "God-fearing conservatives" to counter his abandonment by Washington Republicans.
In the latest day of jarring events, McConnell, R-Ky., and Moore essentially declared open war on each other. McConnell said the former judge should quit the race over a series of recent allegations of past improper relationships with teenage girls. No, said Moore, the Kentucky senator is the one who should get out.
"The person who should step aside is @SenateMajLdr Mitch McConnell. He has failed conservatives and must be replaced. #DrainTheSwamp," Moore wrote on Twitter.
Nelson's news conference came after that exchange and injected a new, sensational accusation in the story.
She said Moore was a regular customer at the restaurant where she worked after school in Gadsden, Alabama.
One night when she was 16, Moore offered to drive her home, she said, but instead parked behind the restaurant and touched her breasts and locked the door to keep her inside. She said he squeezed her neck while trying to push her head toward his crotch and tried to pull her shirt off.
"I thought that he was going to rape me," she said.
Moore finally stopped and as she got out of the car, he warned that no one would believe her because he was a county prosecutor, Nelson said. She said her neck was "black and blue and purple" the next morning and she immediately quit her job.
Nelson said that shortly before that, days before Christmas, she'd brought her high school yearbook to the restaurant and Moore signed it. A copy of her statement distributed at the news conference included a picture of what she said was his signature and a message saying, "To a sweeter more beautiful girl I could not say, 'Merry Christmas.'"
Nelson said she told her younger sister about the incident two years later, told her mother four years ago and told her husband before they married. She said she and her husband supported Donald Trump for president.
Last Thursday, The Washington Post reported that in 1979 when he was 32, Moore had sexual contact with a 14-year-old girl and pursued romantic relationships with three other teenage girls around the same period. The women made their allegations on the record and the Post cited two dozen other sources.
Moore has called the allegations "completely false and misleading," but in an interview last week he did not unequivocally rule out dating teenage girls when he was in his early 30s. Asked by conservative radio host Sean Hannity if that would have been usual for him, Moore said, "It would have been out of my customary behavior."
McConnell, speaking Monday at an event in Louisville, Kentucky, said Moore "should step aside" and acknowledged that a write-in effort by another candidate was possible. He said, "We'll see," when asked if the Republican alternative could be Sen. Luther Strange, whom Moore ousted in a September party primary.
But Strange told reporters late Monday "a write-in candidacy is highly unlikely."
"I made my case during the election," Strange said. "So now, it's really going to be up to the people of our state to sort this out."
Trump, who is traveling in Asia, has told people he wanted to wait to get back to Washington until he weighed in, according to a White House official who would not be named discussing private conversations. Trump is slated to return late today.
By Monday afternoon, Moore was showing no signs of folding.
He assured supporters Sunday night at a Huntsville, Alabama, gym that the Post article was "fake news" and "a desperate attempt to stop my political campaign."
He said allegations that he was involved with a minor are "untrue" and the newspaper "will be sued." The former judge also questioned why such allegations would be leveled for the first time so close to the special election in spite of his decades in public life.