Pressure on U.S. Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore continued to mount Tuesday. House Speaker Paul Ryan called for him to abandon his run for office, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he has no reason to question sex abuse allegations against Moore, and an editorial published by the largest news source in his home state of Alabama maintained he is “grossly unfit” for public office.
“He should step aside,” Ryan told reporters Monday on Capitol Hill. “Number one, these allegations are credible. Number two … if he cares about the values and the people he claims to care about, then he should step aside.”
Sessions, when asked about the accusations during testimony Tuesday before the House Judiciary Committee, said, “I have no reason to doubt these young women.”
“Roy Moore simply cannot be a U.S. Senator,” said the AL.com editorial board, which provides content to newspapers in Birmingham, Huntsville and Mobile. “Even if his party and many of its adherents still think it possible, it is unthinkable — for his state, and his country.
“In our view, Moore has already revealed himself as grossly unfit to be a U.S. Senator before these revelations,” the board said, citing, among other matters, his removal on two occasions from statewide office “for his defiance of the law.”
Moore is also facing intense pressure from Doug Jones, his Democratic opponent in Alabama’s special election to replace Sessions, who vacated the seat to become Attorney General. This week, Jones’ campaign began running its first television ads about the allegations against Moore.
The ads feature a number of anonymous “Republican voters” who describe why they cannot support Moore in the December 12 election. “He’s already been removed form office twice,” one person said. “And this time, it’s even worse,” another said.
Senate Republicans have openly discussed expelling Moore if he wins the election after the most recent accusation from a woman who said the Republican hopeful sexually assaulted her when she was 16. Four other women accused Moore of sexual misconduct when they were teenagers in an article published last week by the Washington Post.
Moore has denied the allegations as a “witch hunt” and promised to “pursue all legal options against these false claims.”
The chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Cory Gardner of Colorado, issued a statement calling Moore “unfit to serve in the United States Senate.”
Moore “would be doing himself, the state, the GOP, and the country a service by stepping aside,” Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina tweeted. “If he continues this will not end well for Mr. Moore.”
“I’ve always thought of the Senate as being a place that should be the conscience of the nation,” Democrat Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont told VOA. “This [Moore joining the Senate] is not the conscience we’d want to show the nation.”
But Moore, a former Alabama Supreme Court justice, has given no indication he is contemplating pulling out.
With just weeks to go before the December 12 special election, Moore’s name would remain on the ballot in Alabama even if he dropped out. Some Senate Republicans have suggested a write-in campaign, possibly for Republican Luther Strange, who was appointed to the Senate seat vacated by Sessions in February.
A divided Republican vote could boost the chances of a Democratic victory in a state that has not had a Democratic senator since 1997. Should Republicans lose the seat, their slim two-seat Senate majority would be cut in half, further endangering tax cuts and other top Trump agenda items.