Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is one of a growing number of Republican senators calling on Roy Moore, the Republican running for Alabama’s open Senate seat, to withdraw his candidacy, telling reporters in Louisville on Monday that he believes the women who have accused Moore of sexual misconduct.
After giving remarks on tax reform efforts, McConnell was asked about the four women who have accused Moore of preying upon them when they were teenagers and he was in his early 30s. Moore has denied any wrongdoing and has not indicated he plans to drop out of the Dec. 12 special election to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ former Senate seat.
McConnell, who previously said Moore should leave the race if the allegations against him “are true,” gave a more forceful condemnation on Monday.
“I believe the women, yes,” he said.
McConnell also said he thinks Moore should “step aside.”
Several other prominent Republicans called on Moore to drop out of the Senate race, including Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Todd Young (Ind.), Susan Collins (Maine) and Thom Tillis (N.C.).
When asked if Republicans are encouraging a write-in campaign for another GOP candidate, McConnell said it’s “an option we’re looking at, whether or not there is someone who could mount a write-in campaign successfully.”
He declined to say if that someone would be Luther Strange, who was appointed to the seat earlier this year but lost the GOP primary to Moore. “We’ll see” if Republicans will throw their support behind Strange, he told reporters.
Many of McConnell’s colleagues have also called on Moore to leave the race, and several who endorsed him have since withdrawn their support.
Moore later responded to McConnell’s comments on Twitter:
McConnell has never supported Moore’s candidacy. He backed Strange in the primary, and the McConnell-affiliated super PAC Senate Leadership Fund had no plans to back Moore in the general election after Strange’s defeat.
Moore is also one of several Senate candidates backed by former White House adviser Steve Bannon, who has declared war on the GOP establishment and hopes to unseat McConnell from his leadership post. Bannon has reportedly asked candidates to pledge to vote against McConnell for Senate majority leader in order to win his endorsement.
“I have an objective that Mitch McConnell will not be majority leader, and I believe will be done before this time next year,” Bannon told The New York Times last week.
McConnell, meanwhile, has accused Bannon of dividing the Republican Party, arguing the strategist and his backers are “specialists at nominating people who lose.”
This article has been updated with additional information about Moore’s candidacy, including comments from Bannon.