Speaking on his radio program on Thursday, the Fox News host Sean Hannity dismissed the sexual-misconduct allegations against Roy Moore, the Republican candidate for Senate in Alabama. Hannity later apologized, saying he had been unclear.
A Washington Post report published earlier in the day detailed an allegation of a sexual encounter in 1979 between a 14-year-old girl and Moore, who was 32 at the time.
The Post report also quoted three other women as saying Moore pursued them when they were 16 to 18 years old and he was in his early 30s.
The Fox News host Sean Hannity on Thursday night said he was “not totally clear” earlier in the day when he dismissed sexual-misconduct allegations against Roy Moore, the Republican candidate for senator in Alabama.
Several women told The Washington Post in a report published Thursday afternoon that Moore had initiated sexual relations with them or pursued them while they were teenagers and he was in his 30s.
In a series of tweets, Hannity said: “As I said on TV tonight, I apologize when I misspoke and was not totally clear earlier today. It’s really sad when the lazy media in this country cuts and pastes a deceptive and out of context comment by a Soros funded radical left-wing group that has purposefully taken me out of context for years.”
Hannity was referring to the group Media Matters, which had published a clip of his comments from his radio show earlier in the day.
He continued: “My comments on the topic of Judge Moore were clear and unambiguous both on radio and on TV, if people would do their own research and reporting. People need to listen to the totality of my remarks if they care about the truth. I interview guests of all points of view, but I speak for myself.”
Speaking with his cohost Lynda McLaughlin on his radio program, “The Sean Hannity Show,” Hannity suggested he doubted the veracity of the allegations against the Senate candidate and former judge.
Hannity cited conspiracy theories that the GOP wanted to discredit Moore.
“You’ve got the establishment — they hate Roy Moore,” he said. “Roy Moore, to them, is another Ted Cruz, another Mike Lee, somebody they can’t control.”
He later said, “Do some people do it for political reasons?”
After discussing the allegations, McLaughlin said that “it was consensual,” to which Hannity agreed.
A woman named Leigh Corfman told The Post that when she was 14 years old, Roy Moore, then 32, initiated a sexual encounter with her.
Corfman, now 53, told The Post she met Moore outside a courtroom in 1979. Moore, who was then an assistant district attorney, offered to watch her while her mother went inside for a child custody hearing, the report said.
Moore asked for Corfman’s number and days later took her to his house, where, she told The Post, he took off her clothes and touched her over her underwear before she asked him to take her home.
The Post’s report also quoted three other women as saying Moore pursued them when they were 16 to 18 years old and he was in his early 30s. They said they did not have sexual contact with Moore.
CNN’s Jake Tapper pushed back on Hannity’s comments but later deleted that tweet, saying he now thought the “consensual” comments referred to Moore’s relationships with two of those women, who told The Post they went on dates with him when they were 17 and 18. The age of consent in Alabama is 16.
Moore, now 70, has vehemently denied the allegations, calling them “completely false and a desperate political attack.”
“This garbage is the very definition of fake news and intentional defamation,” his campaign said in a statement.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday that Moore should drop out of the race “if these allegations are true.” Several other Republicans, including Sens. John Cornyn and Mike Lee, both of whom have endorsed Moore, echoed that sentiment.
Two Republican senators, John McCain and John Thune, said Moore should step aside immediately, with McCain calling the accusations “deeply disturbing and disqualifying.”
Reuters contributed to this report.