President Donald Trump thinks if the allegations of sexual misconduct with teens against an Alabama Senate candidate are true, he should withdraw from his race, the White House said Friday. But Trump's statement also couched his assertion by noting the allegations against Roy Moore are decades old.
In a statement released as Trump was flying from Beijing to Da Nang, Vietnam, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said: "Like most Americans, the President believes we cannot allow a mere allegation, in this case one from many years ago, to destroy a person's life."
"The President also believes that if these allegations are true, Judge Moore will do the right thing and step aside," she said.
An explosive Washington Post report released Thursday based on interviews with more than 30 people detailed allegations that the Republican Senate candidate from Alabama pursued sexual relationships with several teens when they were between 14 and 18 years old and he was in his thirties, and in one instance had sexual contact with an underage teen.
The news sent Republicans reeling, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell calling for Moore to step aside if the allegations are true.
Hours before Sanders spoke to reporters, Vice President Mike Pence's office issued its own statement on Moore.
"The vice president found the allegations in the story disturbing and believes, if true, this would disqualify anyone from serving in office," Pence press secretary Alyssa Farah said in a statement.
Trump originally endorsed Moore's Republican primary opponent, Sen. Luther Strange, ahead of the state's GOP contest earlier this year. But when Strange lost, Trump disavowed him, deleted all tweets indicating his endorsement and wholeheartedly threw his support behind Moore.
Trump was said to be angered by his advisers' insistence he back Strange, the establishment candidate who was supported by McConnell. Trump stumped for Strange at one rally, but was displeased at a lack of energy he perceived in the candidate.
In her statement on Friday, Sanders said Trump would not be distracted by the allegations as he continues on his 13-day diplomatic tour of Asia.
"The President must and will remain focused on representing our country on his historic trip to Asia, where he has been treated with great respect and made unprecedented progress in further strengthening alliances and promoting America's interest above all else," she said.