Roy Moore's support from fellow Republicans is hemorrhaging after a second woman accused the Alabaman of groping her when she was a teenager in the late 1970s, the latest setback to his effort to win an open Senate seat that suddenly seems up for grabs.
"I can tell you without hesitation this is absolutely false," Moore said Monday at an abruptly called news conference in Gallant, Ala., after the latest allegations were made. "I never did what she said I did. I don't even know the woman."
The former state Supreme Court judge and outspoken Christian conservative spoke after a tearful Beverly Young Nelson, now 56, detailed new allegations to reporters in an emotional appearance in New York.
One night when she was 16, Moore offered to drive her home from her after-school job at a restaurant in Gadsden, Alabama, she said. Moore, a regular customer, instead parked behind the restaurant and locked the door to keep her inside, squeezing her neck while trying to push her head toward his crotch and trying to pull her shirt off, Nelson said.
"I thought that he was going to rape me," she said.
Moore stopped and as she left the car he warned no one would believe her because he was a county prosecutor, Nelson said. She said her neck was "black and blue and purple" the next morning.
Even before Nelson's news conference, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took a remarkably personal swipe at Moore, based on last week's Washington Post reports of other incidents involving Moore and teen-age girls decades ago.
"I believe the women," said McConnell, R-Ky., marking an intensified effort by leaders to ditch Moore before a Dec. 12 special election that has swung from an assured GOP victory to one that Democrats could conceivably swipe.
Moore fired back at McConnell on Twitter and said it was McConnell who should step aside, claiming "he has failed conservatives."
The exchange between McConnell and Moore underscored the civil war between establishment Republicans worried that candidates like Moore could cost them their Senate majority and hard-right elements who say McConnell is not conservative enough.