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Calls For Roy Moore To Leave Alabama Senate Race Intensify


The number of lawmakers pressing Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore to withdraw from the race is growing. The calls intensified yesterday after a fifth woman came forward. She has accused Moore of sexually assaulting her back when she was 16 years old. She came forward after The Washington Post first reported that several women accused Moore of pursuing relationships with them when they were teens and he was in his 30s. Moore denied this latest accusation last night.


ROY MOORE: This is absolutely false. I never did what she said I did. I don't even know the woman. I don't know anything about her.

GREENE: But we should say those denials are not helping his support among top Republicans. NPR's Debbie Elliott joins us to talk about this. And just to warn you, we're going to be having a conversation here that may disturb some of our listeners. Debbie, good morning.


GREENE: Just take us through this latest accusation if you can.

ELLIOTT: Yeah, so Beverly Young Nelson is the woman's name. She came forward yesterday saying she first met Roy Moore when she was a waitress at a local restaurant in Gadsden, Ala. That's where Roy Moore was a local prosecutor. He was in his 30s and a regular customer there. She even showed where he had signed her high school yearbook. She says he also flirted with her. He would touch her long, red hair.

But she didn't think too much about it. She rebuffed him and said - until a moment in 1977. As you said, she was 16 years old. And Moore offered her a ride home after work. So she got in the car with him. And instead of pulling out on the highway where she thought he would go to head home, he pulled behind the building, where it was dark. She says he began groping her and then locked the door as she tried to get out.


BEVERLY YOUNG NELSON: I was terrified. He was also trying to pull my shirt off. I thought that he was going to rape me.

ELLIOTT: So very emotional allegations there coming yesterday from Nelson. She told her story to reporters at a news conference in New York with attorney Gloria Allred, who we know is well-known for representing women who were in these situations.

GREENE: All right, well, Debbie, what did - we said that Roy Moore is denying all of this, but what exactly is he saying? And I mean, he's still - you know, he hasn't even talked about dropping out of the race. Is he talking about this stuff when he's out campaigning?

ELLIOTT: He addressed this a couple of appearances over the weekend and told his supporters, you know, this is politics; this is dirty politics and that he is somehow under attack from both Democrats and the GOP establishment. He is also echoing that theme in what he sends to his supporters in the form of fundraising emails. A couple came out yesterday, one with the headline McConnell's dirty plot to destroy me, you know, of course speaking about the Senate majority leader. Another one...

GREENE: He's using this to try and raise money.

ELLIOTT: Oh, yes, and has been since the allegations first came out. But he has not really spoken a lot with reporters. So coming out late yesterday to address this newest allegation was something new. He didn't take questions, but he made that brief statement, as you heard, denying that he knew Nelson or even where the restaurant is or was. And we should note that his wife, Kayla Moore, also appeared by his side and defended her husband of 32 years.


KAYLA MOORE: These things are false, and it's ugly. It's the ugliest politics that I've ever been in in my life.

ELLIOTT: So that's how they're portraying this.

GREENE: Well, you mentioned Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader. I mean, even before the newest accuser came forward, we were seeing a shift in how Republicans were dealing with this, including from McConnell. He's putting no qualifications on his call for Moore to get out of the race.

ELLIOTT: Right. Before, there was this if-true - no more if-true. Here's what he said speaking with reporters back home in Kentucky.


MITCH MCCONNELL: I believe the women, yes.

ELLIOTT: He believes the women, and he says Moore should drop out of the race. Others are saying the same thing. McConnell even says the Republicans are now looking for a write-in option for the Alabama special election. It's next month. It's December 12. The Democratic nominee is Doug Jones. He's a former U.S. attorney from Birmingham best known for prosecuting the Ku Klux Klan church bombers who killed four black girls at a Birmingham church.

GREENE: Well, are names being floated if some - if a write-in campaign actually became possible?

ELLIOTT: Well, names are being floated. But it - that's a big question mark right now. The two names that you hear the most are the appointed incumbent, Luther Strange. You know, he lost to Moore in a bitter primary. And he now says it's highly unlikely that he's going to do that, saying it's really going to be up to the people of our state to sort this out.

And then some people are even mentioning Attorney General Jeff Sessions. This was his Senate seat before he joined the Trump administration, so he'd certainly be a popular choice for Republican voters here. But the party chairman in Alabama is sending some strong signals that nobody needs to be thinking about that just yet.

GREENE: All right, NPR's Debbie Elliott reporting on the latest accusations against Senate Republican candidate Roy Moore. Debbie, thank you.

ELLIOTT: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR National Correspondent Debbie Elliott can be heard telling stories from her native South. She covers the latest news and politics, and is attuned to the region's rich culture and history.