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UPDATE: GOP Leaders Bolt From Senate Candidate Moore After Sex Claim

In interviews with the Washington Post, a woman says Roy Moore tried to initiate sexual contact when she was 14 years old and he was 32. Moore and his campaign deny the allegations.

Roy Moore, the GOP senate candidate in Alabama, initiated sexual encounter with 14-year-old girl when he was 32, a new report says

THE LATEST on Roy Moore, the GOP nominee for Senate in Alabama (all times local):

6:00 p.m.

A month before Alabama’s special election, Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore abruptly faced lurid allegations Thursday of sexual misconduct with minors decades ago — and an immediate backlash from party leaders who demanded he get out of the race if the accusations prove true.

The instant fallout followed a Washington Post report in which an Alabama woman said that Moore, then a 32-year-old assistant district attorney, had sexual contact with her when she was 14. Three other women interviewed by the Post said Moore, now 70, also approached them when they were between the ages of 16 and 18 and he was in his early 30s.

The Moore campaign denied the report as “the very definition of fake news and intentional defamation.”

Defiant as ever, Moore himself issued a fundraising appeal asking for emergency donations in a “spiritual battle.”

“I believe you and I have a duty to stand up and fight back against the forces of evil waging an all-out war on our conservative values,” he wrote. “I will NEVER GIVE UP the fight!”

Moore, a former Alabama Supreme Court justice, has made his name in Republican politics through his public devotion to hardline Christian conservative positions. He was twice removed from his Supreme Court position, once for disobeying a federal court order to remove a 5,200 pound granite Ten Commandments monument from the lobby of the state judicial building, and later for urging state probate judges to defy the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized gay marriage.

On Thursday, senior Republicans swiftly called for Moore to step aside from the Senate race if the allegations are shown to be true. And the man he defeated in the Republican primary, current Sen. Luther Strange, left open the possibility he may re-enter the campaign.

Moore’s name cannot be removed from the ballot before the Dec. 12 special election even if he withdraws from the race, according to John Bennett, a spokesman for the Alabama secretary of state. A write-in campaign remains possible, Bennett added.

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5:35 p.m.

Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore is telling potential donors in a new fundraising pitch that “the forces of evil are on the march in our country.”

Moore is appealing for donations in his race for a Senate seat from Alabama just hours after the Washington Post reported allegations that Moore had sexual contact with a woman when she was 14 and he was 32. His campaign has called the report fake news.

In the fundraising plea, Moore says “the Obama-Clinton Machine’s liberal media lapdogs just launched the most vicious and nasty round of attacks against me I’ve EVER faced.”

Moore says he refuses to repeat their lies, and he’s counting on the help of “God-fearing conservatives like you to stand with me at this critical moment.”

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3:05 p.m.

Senate candidate Roy Moore’s campaign is calling allegations of sexual misconduct “the very definition of fake news and intentional defamation.”

The campaign released a statement on Thursday after The Washington Post reported the Alabama Republican candidate had sexual contact with one teenager and pursued three others nearly four decades ago.

The campaign says, “Judge Roy Moore has endured the most outlandish attacks on any candidate in the modern political arena, but this story in today’s Washington Post alleging sexual impropriety takes the cake.”

The statement also notes that Moore has been married to the same woman for 33 years and has four children and five grandchildren.

It continues: “After over 40 years of public service, if any of these allegations were true, they would have been made public long before now.”

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3 p.m.

It’s too late for Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore’s name to be removed from the ballot, even if he wants to drop out.

That’s according to John Bennett, a spokesman for the Alabama secretary of state.

Bennett says the party and candidate can revoke the Republican’s nomination, but his name would appear regardless, because a key deadline has already passed. Bennett says In such a scenario, even if Moore earned more votes than the Democrat, the state canvassing board would declare the Democrat the winner.

Several senior Republicans called on Moore to quit the race after The Washington Post reported allegations of sexual misconduct.

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2:25 p.m.

The top Senate Republican says if the report about Alabama candidate Roy Moore and sexual contact with a 14-year-old is true, he should drop out of the race.

In a one-sentence statement Thursday, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says: “If these allegations are true, he must step aside.”

The response was swift from Senate Republicans shortly after The Washington Post story about Moore initiating a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old girl several decades ago.

Republican Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado says, “The allegations against Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore are deeply troubling.” Gardner chairs the Republican senatorial campaign committee. He adds, “If these allegations are found to be true, Roy Moore must drop out of the Alabama special Senate election.”

Sens. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Jeff Flake of Arizona echoed those comments, and No. 2 Senate Republican John Cornyn of Texas calls the report “deeply troubling.”

The election is Dec. 12.

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2:22 p.m.

An Alabama woman says Roy Moore, the Republican nominee for next month’s U.S. Senate election, made inappropriate advances and had sexual contact with her when she was 14, according to a Washington Post story Thursday. The Senate’s GOP leader said if the report is shown to be true, Moore must step aside.

The woman, Leigh Corfman, says Moore met her several times when he was a local prosecutor in his 30s and at one point drove her to his home where he touched her over her underwear and guided her hand to touch him over his, the Post reported. They did not have sexual intercourse, the Post said.

Aside from Corfman, three other women interviewed by the Post in recent weeks said Moore pursued them when they were between the ages of 16 and 18 and he was in his early 30s. None of the other women said that Moore forced them into any sort of relationship or sexual contact.

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