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Alabamians React To Roy Moore Allegations

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Roy Moore remained defiant today in the face of allegations that he sexually assaulted a 14-year-old girl decades ago. The Republican U.S. Senate candidate in Alabama made his first public appearance since that story broke in The Washington Post. Moore promised revelations in the coming days about what may have motivated those accusations. Prominent Republicans have been calling for Moore to get out of the race if the allegations are true. And in Alabama, officials and voters have also been weighing in, as Troy Public Radio's Kyle Gassiott reports.

KYLE GASSIOTT, BYLINE: Even though Republicans such as Senator John McCain and former presidential candidate Mitt Romney have called on him to leave the Senate race, Roy Moore has said that he's not backing down. And that doesn't surprise Montgomery resident Ruth Ott (ph).

RUTH OTT: If he were to say, OK, I resign, it would be like an admission that all these things that they're saying is true. And he would be pretty hardheaded about that.

GASSIOTT: Twice elected chief justice of Alabama, Moore is popular with religious conservatives. Conservative former State Representative Steve Flowers says they won't be swayed by these allegations. But Flowers says Moore has run a poor campaign, and that may cost him votes that could go to Democratic challenger Doug Jones, who has been smart in making a play for what Flowers calls the Republican silk-stocking voter.

STEVE FLOWERS: Moore is such a polarizing and such a, in these people's eyes, an embarrassment in the state of Alabama.

GASSIOTT: Jim Zeigler, Alabama's state auditor, rose to Moore's defense on Thursday, comparing Moore's age and that of the women in the story to Biblical relationships such as Mary and Joseph, the parents of Jesus. Those comments drew criticism. And on Friday, Zeigler called in to Alabama Public Television to defend them.

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JIM ZEIGLER: There have been some wonderful examples of older men dating teenage women and sometimes marrying them that have worked out wonderfully. It all depends on the honorable intentions of the man.

GASSIOTT: Zeigler said that voters would be angry about the allegations and they would be sure to turn out to vote for Moore in next month's special election.

For NPR News, I'm Kyle Gassiot in Montgomery, Ala. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.