Trump faces major fallout from lewd video
Campaign 2016 | The GOP nominee vows to remain in the race despite eroding support
by J.C. Derrick & Mickey McLean
Posted 10/07/16, 09:56 pm
UPDATE (10/08/16, 4:10 p.m.): The release of an 11-year-old video of a vulgar Donald Trump demeaning women has shaken the support for the Republican nominee for president, with some prominent GOP politicians calling for Trump to step down. But Trump told The Wall Street Journal earlier today that there is “zero chance I’ll quit.”
The list of Republicans calling for Trump’s head has grown throughout the day, with U.S. senators and representatives, governors, and former Republican presidential rivals either dropping their support or reiterating their concerns about the candidate.
Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., the third-ranking Senate Republican, is possibly the most consequential defection so far. “Donald Trump should withdraw and Mike Pence should be our nominee effective immediately,” he tweeted Saturday afternoon—providing political cover to all rank-and-file GOP senators.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., announced she would no longer support Trump and plans to write in his running mate Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana for president. Ayotte, who is in a tight reelection campaign, said she could not vote for a presidential candidate “who brags about degrading and assaulting women.”
Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., who has been consistent in his criticism of Trump throughout the campaign cycle, tweeted, “Character matters … but [Trump] can still make an honorable move: Step aside & let Mike Pence try.
As of late Saturday afternoon, many other Republicans have said they will not vote for Trump and called on him to withdraw, including Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho, Sen. Deb Fischer of Nebraska, Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, Sen. Dan Sullivan of Alaska, Rep. Bradley Byrne of Alabama, Rep. Barbara Comstock of Virginia, Rep. Rodney Davis of Illinois, Rep. Joe Heck of Nevada, Rep. Mia Love of Utah, Rep. Martha Roby of Alabama, Rep. Ann Wagner of Missouri, Gov. Dennis Daugaard of South Dakota, Gov. Gary Herbert of Utah, and former GOP presidential rivals Gov. John Kasich of Ohio and Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, who said Trump “does not represent me or my party.”
Another former Republican contender, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, called the vulgar comments “unacceptable,” but said that Trump “did the right thing in immediately and unequivocally apologizing.” He said he’s sticking with Trump and blames the video’s release on “progressives” trying to distract the electorate from the issues and yesterday’s release of potentially damaging emails that included excerpts from private speeches made by Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Democrats argued the reverse, noting WikiLeaks made the Clinton email disclosure shortly after The Washington Post published Trump’s comments.
Trump offered a second try at an apology in a video released just after midnight, saying, “I said it, I was wrong, and I apologize.”
Trump’s wife, Melania, also spoke out Saturday afternoon in support of her husband: “The words my husband used are unacceptable and offensive to me. This does not represent the man that I know. He has the heart and mind of a leader. I hope people will accept his apology, as I have, and focus on the important issues facing our nation and world.”
Pence, who was reportedly “beside himself” when he first learned of Trump’s remarks, issued his own statement in response to the video:
“As a husband and father, I was offended by the words and actions described by Donald Trump in the eleven-year-old video released yesterday. I do not condone his remarks and cannot defend them. I am grateful that he has expressed remorse and apologized to the American people. We pray for his family and look forward to the opportunity he has to show what is in his heart when he goes before the nation tomorrow night.”
Trump is scheduled to face off against Clinton in a town hall–style debate Sunday evening in St. Louis.
Trump, Pence, and House Speaker Paul Ryan were scheduled to attend a now-canceled campaign event today in Wisconsin. Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., have condemned Trump’s comments but have stopped short of calling on Trump to withdraw from the presidential race.
Meanwhile, several prominent evangelical leaders who back Trump indicated that they are not wavering in their support since the video’s release.
“Voters of faith are voting on issues like who will protect unborn life, defend religious freedom, create jobs, and oppose the Iran nuclear deal,” Faith and Freedom Coalition president Ralph Reed told BuzzFeed News. “Ten-year-old tapes of private conversation with a television talk show host rank very low on their hierarchy of concerns.”
Gary Bauer, chairman of the Campaign for Working Families, released a statement today reaffirming his support of Trump, saying the GOP nominee’s comments captured on the video were “grossly inappropriate,” but that it “does not change the reality of the choice facing this country.”
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, also confirmed his continued support of Trump. “As a husband and father of three daughters, I find this behavior deeply offensive and degrading,” Perkins said in a statement. “As I have made clear, my support for Donald Trump in the general election was never based upon shared values rather it was built upon shared concerns.”
Perkins went on to list Supreme Court nominees, the threat of Islamic terrorism, and government infringement on religious liberty as the issues justifying his support of Trump.
Evangelist Franklin Graham posted a statement on Facebook today saying Trump’s remarks “could not be defended,” but neither could the agenda of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. He maintained his position to not issue an endorsement, while noting the importance of the Supreme Court.
Pastor Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church in Dallas, an outspoken Trump supporter, said he still believes the businessman is the best option. Theologian Wayne Grudem, who has argued Trump is the “morally good choice” for Christians, told The Wall Street Journal he is thinking about whether to withdraw his support.
Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, tweeted his dismay last night at the conduct of some evangelicals: “I am humiliated by arguments about character I am hearing tonight from some evangelicals. Lord, help us.”
Meanwhile, Politico reported Saturday afternoon that Republican National Committee lawyers are hard at work looking for options for replacing Trump on the GOP ticket. Politico also obtained an email written by RNC staffer Lauren Toomey notifying a mail vendor to “Please put a hold/stop on all mail projects.”
OUR EARLIER REPORT: In a video obtained and released by The Washington Post and NBC News Friday (WARNING: vulgar content), Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is shown making lewd comments about women, including him discussing an attempt to have sex with a married woman and bragging about women letting him kiss and grab them because he is famous.
The video from 2005 featured Trump and Billy Bush, who was then host of the television show Access Hollywood.
“This was locker-room banter, a private conversation that took place many years ago. Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course—not even close,” Trump said in a statement. “I apologize if anyone was offended.”
Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, offered a short but direct response: “No woman should ever be described in these terms or talked about in this manner. Ever.”
Other Republicans distanced themselves from the remarks, including Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who is locked in a close race in New Hampshire. She called the comments “totally inappropriate and offensive.”
Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton called the video “horrific,” tweeting, “We cannot allow this man to become president.”
Meanwhile, Clinton had her own problems with revelations at week’s end. WikiLeaks released what it said were thousands of emails from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, including excerpts from speeches Clinton gave to Wall Street executives and others, the same speeches the former secretary of state had refused to make public.
The leaked emails indicate that Clinton’s campaign staff had read all of her speeches and identified passages that could be problematic for the candidate if they were released.
Some of the revelations include Clinton telling bankers behind closed doors that she favored “open trade and open borders” and that Wall Street executives were best positioned to help reform the U.S. financial sector.
The revelations about Trump and Clinton come just two days before the two candidates face off in their second debate, a town hall format hosted by Washington University in St. Louis.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
J.C. is WORLD Radio’s managing editor. He spent 10 years covering sports, higher education, and politics for the Longview News-Journal and other newspapers in Texas before joining WORLD in 2012 and eventually becoming WORLD’s Washington Bureau chief. Follow J.C. on Twitter @jcderrick1.
Mickey is executive editor of WORLD Digital. He lives in North Carolina with his wife, daughter, and a dog/administrative assistant named Daisy.