MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Four women told the Washington Post that Roy Moore, the Republican Senate nominee in the Alabama special election, pursued relationships with them when they were teenagers in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
The women said Moore, asked them out on dates while serving as an assistant district attorney in Gadsden. One woman, Leigh Corfman, said she was 14 when Moore, then 32, had sexual contact with her, though they did not have intercourse.
The story quotes two other women who said Moore took them on dates when they were 16 and 17, and a third who said Moore bought her wine when she was 18, below the legal drinking age in the state at the time. According to the Post, "none of the women say that Moore forced them into any sort of relationship or sexual contact."
Moore said in a statement provided by his campaign that the allegations were "completely false."
Moore campaign chairman Bill Armistead said in a statement that "this garbage is the very definition of fake news and intentional defamation.”
Moore's campaign sent a similar statement to Breitbart, the conservative news website, shortly before the Post published its piece.
The legal age of consent in Alabama is 16 and was at the time of the alleged incident with Corfman, which took place in 1979. Corfman told the Post "she began to feel she had done something wrong."
"I felt responsible," she told the paper. "I felt like I had done something bad. And it kind of set the course for me doing other things that were bad."
Moore faces Democratic nominee Doug Jones in the Dec. 12 general election.
"Roy Moore needs to answer these serious allegations," the Jones campaign said in a statement late Thursday afternoon.
In Washington, several senators suggested Moore should withdraw from the race. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters that "if these allegations are true, (Moore) must step aside."
Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., echoed that. "If these allegations are true, there is no place for Roy Moore in the United States Senate,” he said in a statement.
One Moore supporter tried to dismiss the report.
"Even if you accept the Washington Post’s report as being completely true, it’s much ado about very little," Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler said in a phone interview.
Moore, a former Alabama chief justice and an outspoken social conservative, has been a divisive figure in state politics, even among Republicans. Officials had been trying to consolidate support behind Moore, and the campaign announced several endorsements in the last few weeks.
Other state Republican reaction varied, Gov. Kay Ivey — who has said she plans to vote for Moore but will not endorse him — said in a statement Thursday that the allegations were "deeply disturbing."
"I will hold judgment until we know the facts," the statement said. "The people of Alabama deserve to know the truth and will make their own decisions.”
Republican state Sen. Dick Brewbaker questioned the timing of the story.
"How do you evaluate those accusations?" he said. "I’m not saying anyone’s a liar, but it’s very difficult to make any kind of evaluation on it."
Moore will remain on the ballot whatever happens over the next few weeks. Secretary of State John Merrill said Thursday that ballots have already been printed. A write-in candidate could still mount a campaign. Moore has given no indication of withdrawing from the race.
Contributing: Deborah Barfield Barry, USA TODAY