US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has led a chorus of establishment Republicans urging Roy Moore, the party's Senate candidate in Alabama, to quit the race as a fifth woman came forward with allegations Moore had sexual contact with teenage girls decades ago.
Beverly Young Nelson said Moore sexually assaulted her when she was 16 and he was a prosecuting attorney in his 30s. At a New York news conference, the tearful Nelson said Moore groped her, tried to pull her shirt off and shove her head in his lap, then warned that "no one will believe you" if she told anyone.
"I was twisting and struggling and begging him to stop," said Nelson, a waitress at an Alabama restaurant where Moore often ate when the incident occurred. "I had tears running down my face."
Moore, a Christian conservative and former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, has refused to withdraw from the race. His campaign released a statement denying "any sexual misconduct with anyone" and saying the new allegations were part of a "witch hunt".
McConnell told reporters in his home state of Kentucky that party officials were considering whether a Republican write-in candidate could be found to challenge Moore in the December 12 special election.
"I think he should step aside," said McConnell, who previously said Moore should leave the race if the allegations were true. "I believe the women."
Republican Senators Orrin Hatch, Susan Collins, Lindsey Graham, Todd Young and Cory Gardner joined McConnell in calling for Moore to drop out - a move that could open the door for Democrats to cut into Republicans' narrow two-seat Senate majority.
Moore, 70, had been a heavy favourite to win the election against Democrat Doug Jones. He has denied the allegations first raised in a Washington Post story about his relationships with four women when they were teenagers, including a charge he initiated sexual contact with a 14-year-old girl when he was in his 30s.