Moore is facing sexual assault allegations heading into an election with enormous national consequences.

An Alabama special election with enormous import for the closely divided US Senate has been thrown into chaos, as Republican nominee Roy Moore faces allegations of sexual misconduct — and the GOP grapples with how to respond.

Before last week, Roy Moore, a former chief justice of the state Supreme Court, was best known for his history of fringe views, religious extremism, and refusal to obey federal court orders. But he managed to defeat an establishment favorite in his party’s primary for the seat despite, or perhaps because of, all that.

But on Thursday, the Washington Post’s Stephanie McCrummen, Beth Reinhard, and Alice Crites added scandal to the mix by publishing a story in which an Alabama woman alleged on the record that when she was 14 years old, in the late 1970s, Moore initiated a sexual encounter with her. Three other women also told the Post that Moore pursued them romantically in the same period, when Moore was in his early 30s and they were between 16 and 18. (The legal age of consent in Alabama is 16.)

Moore has denied ever dating a 14-year-old and generally called the Post story “false,” but in an appearance on Sean Hannity radio’s show Friday, he “didn’t dispute” that he used to date girls as young as 16, admitting that he “dated a lot of young ladies.”

This doesn’t appear to be the end of things — attorney Gloria Allred has said that on Monday, a new accuser will allege sexual assault from Moore when she was underage. But since some ballots in Alabama have already been printed, it appears that Republicans are stuck with Moore as their candidate in the December 12 election.

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