Embattled Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore dismissed as “completely false” allegations that he engaged in sexual misconduct with minors, but he repeatedly offered evasive answers on whether he dated teenage women when he was in his 30s.
During a radio interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity, Mr Moore blasted a Washington Post article that alleged he initiated a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old girl when he was 32 and pursued three other women between the ages of 16 and 18.
“This is a completely manufactured story,” Mr Moore said during the radio interview, calling it a “politically motivated” smear that he alternately attributed to Democrats and “establishment Republicans”. The conservative former judge is running to represent Alabama in the US Senate, having already toppled a more moderate Republican in the primary.
In a separate statement, Mr Moore said he “never engaged in sexual misconduct” and condemned “the actions of any man who engages in sexual misconduct not just against minors but against any woman”.
After Mr Hannity pressed Mr Moore on the ethics of a 32-year-old having sexual contact with a 14-year-old, saying it would be “despicable”, Mr Moore agreed that “if you abuse a 14-year-old you shouldn’t be a Senate candidate”, reiterating that “I didn’t do that”.
But when he was asked about the Post’s larger allegations that he pursued relationships with teenagers while in his 30s, Mr Moore was less precise. Mr Hannity asked if he remember dating girls that young.
“Not generally, no,” Mr Moore replied.
At a different point, Mr Moore said “I dated a lot of young ladies” when he left the military, adding: “I don't remember ever dating any girl without the permission of her mother.”
Later in the interview, Mr Hannity asked if it would be “normal” for a man in his 30s to date a young woman who was 17 or 18. Mr Moore replied it was “not normal”. Then Mr Hannity asked if Mr Moore had dated teenage girls as an older man.
“It would have been out of my customary behaviour,” Mr Moore said.