An Anniston-area woman said Monday that Senate candidate Roy Moore sexually assaulted her when she was 16, and national Republican leaders continued to abandon Moore in the wake of earlier allegations.
She is the fifth woman in recent days to allege an encounter with Moore when they were in their teens and Moore in his 30s, leading to mounting pressure from Republican leaders who want Moore to step down from the Senate nomination.
“I believe the women, yes,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, told reporters in a Louisville press conference Monday, according to CNN.
Later the same day, Anniston resident Beverly Young Nelson told reporters at a press conference in New York that Moore assaulted her after she got off work from her job at a Gadsden restaurant in 1977. Video of the news conference was streamed live by several outlets.
“He said ‘You’re just a child,’ and he said ‘I am the district attorney of Etowah County, and if you tell anyone about this no one will ever believe you,’” Nelson said.
Nelson was 16 years old in 1977. Moore was 30 and an assistant district attorney for Etowah County. Nelson said Moore was a frequent customer at the Old Hickory House on Meighan Boulevard in Gadsden when Nelson worked there as an after-school job. Nelson said Moore offered to drive her home one night after closing, but instead drove her to the back of the restaurant and began groping her and trying to force her head toward his crotch.
“I thought that he was going to rape me,” she said. “I was twisting and I was struggling and I was begging him to stop.”
Nelson said Moore relented and drove away, leaving her in the restaurant parking lot.
Before the news conference, Moore’s campaign issued a pre-emptive statement seeking to discredit Nelson’s attorney, Gloria Allred.
“Gloria Allred is a sensationalist leading a witch hunt, and she is only around to create a spectacle,” the statement read in part. “We’ve said this before and we’ll say it again: Judge Moore is an innocent man and has never had any sexual misconduct with anyone.”
In his own televised press conference Monday evening, from Moore’s polling place in Gallant, the candidate denied Nelson’s account.
“I can tell you without hesitation this is absolutely false,” Moore said to a crowd at the Gallant Fire Department. “I never did what she said I did. I don’t even know the woman. I don’t know anything about her. I don’t know where the restaurant is or was.”
Nelson, at her press conference, presented a high school yearbook she claimed had been signed and dated by Roy Moore, with a reference to the Old Hickory House.
Allred told reporters that she’s asking for the Senate Judiciary Committee to convene and ask Moore questions about the accusations under oath. Nelson would be willing to do the same, Allred said.
Nelson’s Facebook page indicates she lives in Anniston, and a city directory lists an address for her and her husband in the Choccolocco area east of Anniston.
At the address listed for Nelson on Monday, no one answered a knock at the door, where an exterior light was left on. Neighbors said they did not know her.
Republicans across the country were already divided over reports last week, in The Washington Post, in which four women said Moore, in his 30s, pursued them romantically while they were in their teens. One of the women, Leigh Corfman, said she was 14 and Moore 32 when he initiated an encounter in which Moore he took his clothes off, undressed her and touched her through her underwear. The age of consent in Alabama is 16.
In a radio interview last week, Moore said he never had contact with the 14-year-old. Asked by a talk show host recently if he ever dated teenagers Moore said “No, not generally.”
Moore told supporters at an event Sunday that he intended to sue The Post, according to reports in the press. There was no indication of any suit being filed Monday, and attempts to reach staff for Moore’s campaign and a lawyer for his nonprofit, the Foundation for Moral Law, were unsuccessful Monday.
Leading Senate Republicans backed away from Moore on Monday. Last week, many in the Senate said Moore should resign if the allegations against him were true. On Monday, some said they’d heard Moore’s arguments and found them wanting.
“I did not find his denials to be convincing and believe that he should withdraw from the Senate race in Alabama," Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, told online news outlet The Hill.
McConnell, the majority leader, called on Moore to step aside. Moore, in a tweet, countered that it was McConnell who should step aside because “he has failed conservatives and must be replaced.”
Closer to home, Moore’s supporters stuck by him. Calhoun County Republican Party Chairman James Bennett said last week that The Post’s story wasn’t believable because it came from “the liberal media.”
He said Monday that he also had questions about Nelson’s account. He said he didn’t watch the Monday news conference. Bennett and Nelson are friends on Facebook.
“I’d like to know why she went to New York to say this, and who paid to send her there,” Bennett said.
Bennett said he didn’t know why he was listed as a Facebook friend of Nelson and had never met her. He asked why the story came out just prior to the election, when it happened 40 years ago.
At the press conference, Nelson said she didn't come forward soon after the alleged attack, because she “was frightened by his position and power.”
The Alabama Republican Party has yet to release an official statement on the Moore accusation, though state GOP chairwoman Terry Lathan told the website Alabama Political Reporter Monday that in-office Republicans who endorse a Democrat or third-party candidates run the risk of violating party-loyalty rules. Republicans who violate loyalty rules can find themselves banned from the GOP ballot.
Moore himself toured with a third-party presidential candidate, the Constitution Party’s Michael Peroutka, in 2004. It didn’t keep him off later Republican ballots.
A poll released Sunday by Louisiana-based JMC Analytics showed Democrat Doug Jones ahead of Moore for the first time since the race began. Jones had 46 percent of the vote to Moore’s 42 percent in that poll. An Emerson poll released Monday, however, showed Moore with a 10-point lead, roughly the same position he was in before the Post story broke.
Gov. Kay Ivey’s staff said Saturday that Ivey has no plan to move the date of the election.
Staff writer Kirsten Fiscus contributed reporting.