Schuette: Roy Moore should ‘step aside’ in Senate race

Jonathan Oosting
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, a Republican candidate for governor in 2018, said Tuesday that U.S. Senate GOP nominee Roy Moore of Alabama should “step aside” unless strong evidence is presented to contradict claims of sexual behavior and misconduct involving underage girls and young women.

Schuette said he views the accusations through the lens of attorney general and as a parent, noting he has a daughter in the workplace and a son who will be as well.

“These are serious charges that have been leveled against Roy Moore,” he said in an interview on WJR AM-760 radio in Detroit. “Everybody deserves due process, but unless solid evidence is presented to refute these charges, then he should step aside.”

The call for Moore to leave the closely watched Alabama race comes 13 months after Schuette condemned lewd and sexually aggressive comments by then-candidate Donald Trump but continued to support his successful presidential campaign.

Trump, in 2005 footage with “Access Hollywood” host Billy Bush, bragged about his celebrity status, saying “you can do anything” to women, including “grab them by the p----.”

Schuette said at the time that Trump’s “so-called locker room banter is indefensible” and “appalling” but stood by his presidential campaign, arguing “I’m not going to give Hillary Clinton the master key to the United States Supreme Court.”

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, who is also likely to run for governor but has not yet announced plans, withdrew his endorsement of Trump after the 2005 recording surfaced but said he ended up voting for the president via a straight-ticket GOP ballot in November.

Moore, who defeated Republican Sen. Luther Strange in Alabama’s Sept. 26 primary, has been accused of inappropriate relationships with several young women.

One woman accusing Moore of initiating sexual contact when she was 14 said Monday she wanted to confront him years ago but didn't because he was powerful and the encounter gutted her self-confidence. She said she came forward to tell her story only after other women agreed to.

Leigh Cofrman said on NBC News that she was “absolutely not” paid to tell her story publicly, refusing unsubstantiated claims by Moore’s supporters that reporters were offering thousands of dollars to women for accusations.

The state election is being closely watched, as several GOP senators have called Moore to drop out. Trump remains mostly quiet on the issue.

Republicans hold a 52-48 edge in the Senate, and the narrow majority has already made it difficult for Republicans to push through their agenda. Moore's name cannot be removed from the ballot even if he withdraws from the race, though a write-in campaign remains possible.

Moore is among a host of high-profile political and entertainment figures facing accusations of sexual misconduct as alleged victims across the country speak up and out about past incidents they had not discussed publicly.

Buzzfeed News on Monday reported that Michigan U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr., a Detroit Democrat and longest-serving member of Congress, used taxpayer funds to settle a wrongful dismissal complaint with a staffer who claimed she was fired after refusing his sexual advances. Conyers denied the claims Tuesday.

Separately, U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell said last week she was groped by a “historical figure” during a dinner event decades ago, and the Dearborn Democrat recounted instances where a senator made unwanted advances toward her and other women in the 1980s.

The chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield, resigned last week following allegations he sexually harassed several former office staffers. The chief of staff denied the allegations.

The Associated Press contributed.