Sen. Mike Lee pulls endorsement of Alabama’s Roy Moore while Mitt Romney calls the Senate candidate ‘unfit for office’


FILE - In this Monday, Sept. 25, 2017, file photo, former Alabama Chief Justice and U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore speaks at a rally, in Fairhope, Ala. According to a Washington Post story Nov. 9, an Alabama woman said Moore made inappropriate advances and had sexual contact with her when she was 14. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)

Washington • Former presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Friday called for Alabama GOP Senate nominee Roy Moore to step down as a candidate after allegations surfaced that the former judge initiated a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old girl when he was 32.

Meanwhile Friday, Utah Sen. Mike Lee said he no longer could back Moore and pulled his endorsement.

Unlike other Republicans who tempered their calls for Moore to resign — conditioned on the allegations proving true — Romney said he believes the reported victim, Leigh Corfman, is being truthful and Moore should drop out.

Innocent until proven guilty is for criminal convictions, not elections,” Romney tweeted. “I believe Leigh Corfman. Her account is too serious to ignore. Moore is unfit for office and should step aside.”

Corfman told The Washington Post that Moore sought a relationship with her when she was 14 and at one point touched her over her bra and underpants, she says, and guided her hand to touch him over his underwear. Three other women who were in their teens also said Moore pursued them.

Moore, who was twice removed as Alabama Supreme Court chief justice after refusing to follow federal court orders on touchstone conservative issues such as gay marriage and separation of church and state, has denied the allegations.

Lee and his fellow senator from Utah, Orrin Hatch, joined a chorus of Republican senators Thursday in calling for Moore to step aside if the allegations are true.

On Friday, Lee’s office asked Moore’s campaign to remove the image of the Utah Republican from any fundraising ads. Later in the day, Lee withdrew his endorsement.

“Having read the detailed description of the incidents, as well as the response from Judge Moore and his campaign, I can no longer endorse his candidacy for the US Senate,” Lee tweeted.

Romney, a former Massachusetts governor and now Utah resident, wasn’t alone in calling for Moore to resign his candidacy now. Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican and former presidential candidate, said the same Thursday.

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.”

On Friday night, former independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin argued that the situation is an example of why “it’s just becoming increasingly difficult for decent people to associate with the Republican Party.”

The GOP “needs people like us to even have a majority … to function at all or have any decency,” McMullin said, but party members who attack victims of child sex abuse and defend the alleged perpetrators of sexual assault drive away “decent” conservatives like McMullin.

“Good riddance,” responded his counterpart, CNN political contributor Ed Martin.

“I never thought I’d see the day when pedophilia became a divisive issue within the GOP,” McMullin tweeted Thursday. “The party cannot lead in this condition.”