Alabama Republican candidate Roy Moore is rebuffing a growing number of calls for him to abandon his campaign for a U.S. Senate seat in the wake of allegations he had sexual contact with a 14-year-old girl four decades ago when he was a local prosecutor in his early 30s.
Moore told political supporters Sunday that last week's report in The Washington Post, was "fake news" and "a desperate attempt to stop my political campaign." He said the newspaper "will be sued."
The newspaper's story, included an on-the-record account from the teenager, now in her 50s, and from three other women who said Moore pursued them when they were teenagers.
Moore told the political rally that "there are groups that don't want me in the United States Senate," naming the Democratic Party and establishment Republican officials in Washington. He accused them of working together to derail his campaign, but said, "We do not plan to let anybody deter us from this race."
The White House has said Moore should end his candidacy if the charges are proven to be true, a stance adopted by other key Republicans, including most Republican senators.
White House legislative aide Marc Short said Sunday, "I think there's a special place in hell for those who actually perpetrate these crimes. But, having said that, he hasn't been proved guilty. We have to afford him the chance to defend himself."
But other Republicans, including Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and two former Republican presidential candidates, Mitt Romney and Senator John McCain of Arizona, have called for Moore to end his candidacy in the special December 12 election against Democrat Doug Jones, a former federal prosecutor, or revoked their past endorsements.
The election is to fill out the last three years of the seat once held by Jeff Sessions, now attorney general in President Donald Trump's Cabinet.
Moore has tried to raise money off the controversy, telling potential donors that "vicious and sleazy attacks against me are growing more vicious by the minute."
He said, "I'm counting on you to stand with me at this critical moment by chipping in a donation to help me bust through the vicious lies and attacks and get the truth out to as many voters as possible before December 12."
Four surveys of voters taken in Alabama, a southern state, in the immediate aftermath of the newspaper story and Moore's adamant rejection of it show him to be in a close race with Jones, separated by a few percentage points, with a significant share of undecided voters.