Hatch, Lee call on Alabama's Roy Moore to drop his Senate bid if underage sexual allegations are true

FILE- In this Sept. 26, 2017, file photo, U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore greets supporters before his election party in Montgomery, Ala. President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon is boosting multiple challengers to GOP incumbents and the party’s preferred candidates in next year’s midterm elections(AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)

Washington • Utah Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee joined fellow Republicans on Thursday in calling for Alabama GOP Senate nominee Roy Moore to drop his candidacy if allegations are true that the former judge initiated a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old girl nearly four decades ago.

Lee had endorsed Moore, a controversial former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice, in October, saying that Alabama residents “have the chance to send a proven, conservative fighter to the United States Senate and I am more than ready to welcome a trusted ally.”

Judge Moore’s tested reputation of integrity is exactly what we need in Washington D.C. in order to pass conservative legislation and protect the liberty of all Americans,” Lee had said.

On Thursday, after a bombshell Washington Post report that Moore had a sexual encounter with a then-14-year-old girl when he was 32, Lee quickly distanced himself from the candidate.

If these allegations are true, Judge Moore should resign,” Lee said through a spokesman.

Hatch, who had not endorsed Moore, urged the same.

If the deeply disturbing allegations in The Washington Post are true, Senator Hatch believes that Judge Moore should step aside immediately,” spokesman Matt Whitlock said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell used almost the same words in a statement on behalf of Republican senators.

If these allegations are true, he must step aside,” McConnell said.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., was more blunt, arguing on Twitter that Moore should drop out of the race without hedging if the allegations were true.

“The allegations against Roy Moore are deeply disturbing and disqualifying,” McCain tweeted. “He should immediately step aside and allow the people of Alabama to elect a candidate they can be proud of.”

The Salt Lake County Republican Party, too, joined the chorus of calls for Moore to get out of the race.

New Rule: If you’ve had sex with a minor or lesser things like texted explicit pictures of your reproductive anatomy ... or anything like that, let’s go ahead and agree you’re not running for office. Glad we had this talk,” the party tweeted Thursday afternoon.

This story will be updated.