Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) changed his tune on Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore Monday, saying he believes the women who allege Moore sexually abused and harassed them when they were underage.
Last Thursday, the Washington Post published an explosive report, in which four women went on the record saying Moore, the Republican nominee in the special election to be held next month, had sexually abused women as young as 14. Following the report, McConnell said in a statement, “If these allegations are true, he must step aside.”
Many Republican senators echoed McConnell last week, giving Moore the benefit of the doubt, saying that if the allegations were true, Moore needed to withdraw from the race. But Monday, at an event in Kentucky, McConnell was asked about the report, and he dropped the “if true” caveat.
“I believe the women, yes,” McConnell said, adding that he believes Moore must step aside.
Hours after McConnell’s event in Kentucky, a fifth woman came forward, detailing a story about Moore allegedly attacking her when she was just 15 years old and working as a waitress at a restaurant Moore frequented.
“He forced my head onto his crotch,” the woman, Beverly Young Nelson, said Monday through tears. “I continued to struggle. I was determined that I was not going to allow him to force me to have sex with him. I was terrified. He was also trying to pull my shirt off. I thought he was going to rape me.”
During the press press conference, National Republican Senate Committee Chairman Cory Gardner (R-CO) released a statement saying that, if Moore refuses to withdraw and wins, the Senate should vote to expel him.
Gardner is one of several Republicans who have stepped up their rhetoric following McConnell’s comments Monday and the fifth woman coming forward. Four of the five Senators who endorsed Moore following his primary win have rescinded their endorsements, and several other Republicans echoed McConnell’s comments on Monday. A number of others have yet to comment since last week.
The increasingly aggressive calls for Moore to withdraw from the race have yet to have any effect on the candidate himself. Moore has denied the allegations repeatedly and attacked McConnell and Nelson’s attorney, Gloria Allred, Monday.
“The person who should step aside is… Mitch McConnell,” Moore tweeted. “He has failed conservatives and must be replaced.” After Nelson’s press conference Monday, Moore’s campaign said in a statement, “Gloria Allred is a sensationalist leading a witch hunt, and she is only around to create a spectacle.”
Here is what every Senate Republican who has responded in the wake of McConnell’s comments Monday and the fifth woman coming forward has said. ThinkProgress is also tracking how the five senators who endorsed Moore have responded in recent days. This story will be updated should others comment.
The senators who endorsed Moore
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX)
“I believe the accusations against Roy Moore are disturbing and, if true, disqualifying,” Cornyn said in a statement Monday. “The most appropriate course of action, in my view, is to leave the final judgement in the hands of Alabama voters — where it has always belonged — and withdraw my endorsement.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TZ)
Cruz rescinded his endorsement Monday evening, telling reporters at the Capitol, “I am not able to urge the people of Alabama to support his candidacy so long as these allegations remain unrefuted.”
But Cruz did not drop the “if true” caveat like other Republicans Monday, adding, “Both last week and this week there are serious charges of criminal conduct that, if true, not only make him unfit to serve in the Senate, but merit criminal prosecution.”
He went on, saying, “If the allegations are true, he should drop out now. Tonight. So the people of Alabama are not given an untenable choice between a candidate under a serious cloud of potential criminal conduct or a liberal Democrat.”
Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT)
“Having read the detailed description of the incidents, as well as the response from Judge Moore and his campaign, I can no longer endorse his candidacy for the US Senate,” Lee tweeted Friday.
Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT)
“I am pulling my endorsement and support for Roy Moore for U.S. Senate,” Daines tweeted Friday.
Rand Paul (R-KY) also endorsed Moore, but he was recently attacked and hospitalized, and has not yet responded to the mounting allegations.
The senators who have gone beyond ‘if true’
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
“I believe the women,” McConnell said Monday, adding he believes Moore should step aside.
Sen. Todd Young (R-IN)
“After giving Roy Moore ample time to unequivocally deny the disturbing allegations against him, those allegations remain far more persuasive than the denials,” Young tweeted, commenting on the recent allegations about Moore for the first time. “Roy Moore should immediately drop out of the race. The appearance of grossly reprehensible behavior disqualifies him from service in the United States Senate. If he does not step aside, we need to act to protect the integrity of the Senate.”
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME)
“After giving Roy Moore ample time to unequivocally deny the disturbing allegations against him, those allegations remain far more persuasive than the denials. Roy Moore should immediately drop out of the race,” Susan Collins tweeted Monday, moving beyond her call for Moore to drop out if the allegations were true. “The appearance of grossly reprehensible behavior disqualifies him from service in the United States Senate. If he does not step aside, we need to act to protect the integrity of the Senate.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
Graham, who initially echoed the calls for Moore to step aside, “if true,” dropped the caveat Monday, tweeting, “In light of the most recent allegations and the cumulative effect of others, I believe #RoyMoore would be doing himself, the state, the GOP, and the country a service by stepping aside. If he continues this will not end well for Mr. Moore.”
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
Hatch, who originally echoed the “if true” caveat, retweeted a Washington Post story about McConnell’s comment Monday, and added, “I stand with the Majority Leader on this. These are serious and disturbing accusations, and while the decision is now in the hands of the people of Alabama, I believe Luther Strange is an excellent alternative.”
Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY)
“These charges seem very credible,” Barrasso told CNBC Monday. “They’re very disturbing.” Barrasso also said on the program that he believes Moore should drop out of the race and dropped his earlier “if true” caveat about the allegations.
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC)
Tillis, too, originally echoed the “if true” caveat, but dropped it Monday, tweeting, “The allegations leveled at Roy Moore are disturbing. I have serious concerns about his prior conduct and fitness for office. He should immediately withdraw from the race.”
Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL)
“I think he ought to seriously think about dropping out,” Shelby told reporter Jamie Dupree Monday, adding, “He’s got to make his own decision, [but] it doesn’t look good.” Shelby did not say “if true” in his comments Monday.