US President Donald Trump would expect Senate candidate Roy Moore to withdraw from an upcoming vote if allegations that he had a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old girl were true, the White House said on Friday.
Senior Republicans are calling for the controversial Alabama Republican to pull out of the race to be elected to the Senate in December, after The Washington Post reported that he initiated a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old girl when he was 32.
Roy Moore, a 70-year-old judge, is hoping to take the seat vacated by Jeff Sessions, the attorney general.
Mr Moore was backed by Steve Bannon, President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, and joined on the campaign trail by Nigel Farage. Mr Trump and the Republican establishment preferred his rival, Luther Strange.
A defiant Mr Moore emailed his supporters hours after the accusations were made and wrote: “I refuse to stand down.”
He said that the accusations were attacks from “the Obama-Clinton Machine’s liberal media lapdogs”.
He continued: “The forces of evil are on the march in our country.
“I have a duty to stand up and fight back against the forces of evil waging an all-out war on our conservative values.”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that Mr Trump believed Mr Moore should “do the right thing and step aside” if the allegations proved true.
“Like most Americans the president believes we cannot allow a mere allegation, in this case one from many years ago, to destroy a person’s life,” Ms Sanders told reporters aboard Air Force One before Trump arrived in Vietnam to attend an Asia-Pacific summit.
“However, the president also believes that if these allegations are true, Judge Moore will do the right thing and step aside.”