President Donald Trump called on fellow Republican Roy Moore on Friday to concede to Democrat Doug Jones in the Alabama U.S. Senate race, following the party's stinging loss in the southern U.S. state earlier this week.
Moore, whose controversial candidacy was beset by allegations that he sexually assaulted or pursued teenage girls while in his 30s, has so far refused to admit defeat in Tuesday's election that saw Jones win by 1.5 percentage points with 99 percent of the ballots counted.
The embattled Republican has made two statements since his loss, but has not conceded even as Trump and others have reached out to congratulate Jones, a former prosecutor, on his win.
"I would certainly say he should," Trump, who endorsed Moore in the final stage of the campaign, told reporters at the White House.
"He tried," Trump added, referring to Moore's campaign efforts and reiterating his earlier comments that as the party's top leader he would have liked to keep the seat in Republican hands.
Jones defeated the former judge in a special election to replace Jeff Sessions, who left the Senate to serve as U.S. Attorney General under Trump. State officials have said the outcome is unlikely to change even as provisional ballots are counted.
The Democratic win would narrow Republicans' hold on the Senate to 51 out of 100 seats. It has also buoyed Democrats' hopes of a potential comeback for the party in the 2018 midterm elections.
(Reporting by Jim Oliphant and Susan Heavey; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Andrew Hay)