(CN) – Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan on Tuesday called for U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore of Alabama to drop out of the special-election race, calling reports that the former judge had inappropriate sexual contact with teenage girls when he was in his 30s “credible.”
“He should step aside,” Ryan said at a House GOP leadership press conference. “Number one, these allegations are credible. Number two, if he cares about the values of the people he claims to care about, then he should step aside.”
Five women have accused Moore, the Republican nominee for Alabama’s special U.S. Senate election, of sexual misconduct. The election for the seat left vacant by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions will be held next month.
The Washington Post reported Thursday that a woman said she was 14 years old when Moore began making advances toward her after they met outside a courtroom in Etowah County, Ala., in 1979.
Leigh Corfman told the Post that Moore met with her over the course of several days, took her to his home and kissed her.
Corfman said that on a second visit, Moore took off her shirt and pants, removed his clothes except for his underwear, touched her over her bra and underwear, and guided her hand to touch him over his underwear.
Three other women interviewed by the Post said Moore, now 70, approached them when they were between the ages of 16 and 18 and he was in his early 30s.
On Monday, a fifth woman accused Moore of sexually assaulting her when she was 16-year-old.
Beverly Young Nelson, represented by women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred, told reporters at a press conference in New York that the Senate candidate assaulted her when he gave her a ride home one night in the late 1970s.
Through tears, Nelson described the assault and said that she feared Moore was going to rape her. She said he groped her, locked the door to keep her inside his car, and squeezed her neck while trying to push her head toward his crotch.
After news of the sexual misconduct allegations broke Thursday, Ryan initially described the claims as “disqualifying if true.”
On Tuesday, however, the House speaker joined the growing ranks of GOP leaders calling for Moore to withdraw from the race.
After Nelson’s press conference Monday, National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Cory Gardner of Colorado said that Moore is unfit to serve in the Senate and should not run for office.
“If he refuses to withdraw and wins, the Senate should vote to expel him, because he does not meet the ethical and moral requirements of the United States Senate,” Gardner said.
Also on Monday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, another Republican, told reporters that he believes the women who have accused Moore of sexual misconduct and thinks he should “step aside.”
In comments during testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday morning, Attorney General Sessions said that he had “no reason to doubt” the women’s claims against Moore, who is running to replace him in the Senate.
Moore had been the favorite to win the Dec.12 election against Democratic candidate Doug Jones.
A Morning Consult/Politico survey conducted after the Post report and released Tuesday found that 60 percent of registered voters believe that Moore should not continue his run for office, including 50 percent of registered Republican voters.
On Friday, Moore told Sean Hannity on Fox News Radio that the allegations made against him are “completely false” and “misleading.”
“I’ve never known this woman or anything with regard to the other girls,” Moore said. “You understand this is 40 years ago, and after my return from the military, I dated a lot of young ladies.”
He said he believes the sexual misconduct allegations are “politically motivated” attempts to “stop a very successful campaign.”