Gov. Scott Walker on Monday called on U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore to step aside — a shift from Friday, when Walker compared allegations that Moore initiated a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old girl to an unfounded claim five years ago that Walker fathered a “love child.”
Democrats pounced on Walker’s initial comparison, calling it an affront to victims of sexual assault and harassment.
Then Monday, a new accuser of Moore came forward. The woman, Beverly Young Nelson, said at a press conference that Moore sexually assaulted her when she was 16.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Monday that “I believe the women” accusing Moore of sexual misconduct. McConnell also said Moore should leave Alabama’s special election race for U.S. Senate, in which he is the GOP nominee.
Walker followed those developments with a one-sentence statement late Monday: “I believe Roy Moore should step aside.”
For Walker, it was a shift from his comments in a Friday WISN-TV interview that aired Sunday. Asked if Moore should bow out, he said then: “If it’s true — I mean that’s the great qualifier. I don’t know all the facts.”
Acknowledging it was “different circumstances,” Walker cited the unsubstantiated “love child” claim about him that was made public on a progressive “citizen journalism” web site, just before the 2012 recall election.
“A reporter said to me: ‘What do you think of these online reports that say you had a love child in college?’ Well, it wasn’t true,” Walker said. “You look at things like that that come out at the last minute and you think, ‘Well, of course that wasn’t true.’”
The Democratic leader of the state Senate, Jennifer Shilling of La Crosse, said Walker’s comments to WISN-TV were “an insult to anyone that has experienced sexual assault and harassment.”
“It is unacceptable for Gov. Walker to undermine victims of sexual misconduct in an effort to protect the Republican Party from further embarrassment,” Shilling said in a statement.
State Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, said in a statement that “it’s outrageous that Gov. Walker didn’t take the opportunity to denounce sexual abuse and exploitation of teenage girls by any adult, especially in the case of Roy Moore.”
The Washington Post broke the initial allegations against Moore last week, rocking the U.S. Senate race in Alabama. The special election is to fill the seat vacated by Jeff Sessions, who left the Senate to become President Donald Trump’s Attorney General.
The Post report was based in part on an interview with Leigh Corfman, who said she was 14 and Moore 32 when he initiated a sexual encounter. It also featured interviews with three other women who said Moore pursued them while he was in his 30s and they were between 16 and 18 — though none of the other three say he initiated sexual contact, as Corfman did. The report also drew from interviews with more than 30 people who knew Moore at the time of the alleged encounters, from 1977 to 1982.
Moore has denied the allegations against him.
U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, told CNN on Monday that she believes Moore’s accusers.
“It seems to be a very carefully researched story,” Baldwin said. “I sometimes wonder, how much does it take for people to believe women in these instances?”
U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, late Monday also said Moore shouldn’t run for the Senate seat. “It’d be nice if (Moore) would step aside and we could come up with some system for electing a different Republican,” Johnson said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.