US Senate candidate accused of sexual contact with minor in 1979: Report

WASHINGTON: The Republican candidate for a vacant US Senate seat initiated a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old girl when he was practising law, the victim, now a grown woman, said in an explosive report Thursday.

Candidate Roy Moore of Alabama was facing calls to step aside after four women told The Washington Post that he pursued them when they were 18 or younger, and he was in his early thirties working as an assistant district attorney.

According to the Post, Leigh Corfman, now 53, said when she was 14 Moore took her into his house in the woods near Gadsden, Alabama, removed her shirt and pants, and fondled her over her bra and underwear.

Moore guided her to touch him over his "tight" white underwear, she said.

"I wasn't ready for that," Corfman told the Post.

Two of the women spoke of Moore providing them glasses of wine when they were under the legal drinking age of 19.

Gloria Thacker Deason was 18 in 1979 when she began dating 32-year-old Moore after he approached her while she worked at a jewellery counter in a local mall.

They dated on and off for several months, and their physical relationship went no further than hugging and kissing, she told the Post.

Moore, who is now 70, and his campaign denied any allegations of sexual impropriety and called the Post story "fake news".

"After over 40 years of public service (by Moore), if any of these allegations were true, they would have been made public long before now," the Moore campaign said in an email to supporters.

The account immediately reverberated through Washington, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell saying that if the troubling accusations are accurate, Moore should drop out of the race.

"If these allegations are true, he must step aside," McConnell said in a one-sentence statement.

Moore and Democrat Doug Jones are running in a special Senate election on Dec 12 to replace Jeff Sessions, who was picked by President Donald Trump to be the US attorney general.

The Post said it interviewed more than 30 people, including mothers and friends of the girls, for their investigative report.

It detailed how Moore drove Corfman 30 to his secluded home, had her remove her shirt and pants and removed his own, then guided her to touch his intimate areas over his underwear.

"I wasn't ready for that – I had never put my hand on a man's penis, much less an erect one," Corfman said.

The girl then told Moore to drive her home. "I wanted it over with – I wanted out," she said she thought to herself.

Enticing a child under 16 into ones home for sexual purposes is a felony in Alabama punishable by up to 10 years in prison, but the statute of limitations has expired, the Post reported.

Moore has had a controversial career as a judge, notably for refusing to remove a statue of the Ten Commandments in his court house and for refusing to issue marriage licences to same-sex couples. — AFP