Three of Alabama’s largest newspapers have published an editorial calling Senate candidate Roy Moore “grossly unfit for office”.
“Roy Moore simply cannot be a US Senator. Even if his party and many of its adherents still think it possible, it is unthinkable – for his state, and his country,” wrote the AL.com editorial board, which feeds major papers in Birmingham, Mobile, and Huntsville, Alabama.
Mr Moore, a Republican running for Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ former Senate seat in Alabama, has been accused of sexual misconduct by five women. Three of these women claims he pursued them when they were teenagers and he was in his thirties. Two of them claim he initiated sexual encounters when they were teens. Mr Moore has denied these allegations.
AL.com published its editorial on the same day the latest accuser, Beverly Young Nelson, came forward with her allegations. Ms Nelson claims Mr Moore sexually assaulted her when she was 16 and he was in his late thirties.
At a press conference on Monday, the 56-year-old described Mr Moore offering her a ride home from the restaurant where she worked, locking her in his car, and “groping [her], putting his hands on [her] breasts”.
Mr Moore denied these allegations, claiming he did not even know his accuser.
The AL.com editorial board, however, made it clear whose story they believed: the accusers'.
“The seriousness of these incidents cannot be overstated,” the board wrote on Monday night. “...Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is a consideration for the courtroom, not the ballot box. When choosing our representative before the rest of the world, character matters.”
The latest polls – released the day before Ms Nelson came forward with her allegations – show Democratic candidate Doug Jones leading Mr Moore by a margin of four points in the ordinarily red state.
More than a dozen Republican Senators have urged Mr Moore to drop out of the race, and several are considering staging a write-in campaign. Senator Cory Gardner, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, even suggested that the Senate expel Mr Moore if he won.
Mr Moore, however, shows no sign of stepping down. He has staunchly denied the allegations against him, and assured supporters that the “established Republicans” would not derail his campaign.
But the final decision, the editorial board countered, does not lie with the “established Republicans” anyway.
“[Mr Moore’s] true character has been revealed. It's time for the GOP to remove its official support,” the board wrote. “And since he and his party can't assure it, the voters of Alabama must.”