WASHINGTON – Republican leadership is furious and dismayed after a profanity laden video from 2005 surfaced showing Donald Trump, their nominee for US president, discussing women in boorish, objectifying terms.
The speaker of the House, the chairman of the Republican National Committee and even Trump’s own vice presidential running mate all said they were disgusted by his comments, which suggested disloyalty to his third wife and a sense of entitlement to women’s genitals.
“I did try to f*** her. She was married,” he said of a woman whose full name has not been identified. “I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there.”
At the time of his comments, Trump was married to Melania Knauss, his current wife, who was pregnant with his child.
“When you’re a star, they let you do it,” Trump continued. “Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”
Five Republican senators including former presidential candidate John McCain of Arizona, two governors and several House members have rescinded their pledges of support for Trump and have called on him to drop out of the race.
Forcing him off of the Republican ticket is an unprecedented task. There is no guidebook for doing so, and even if it were possible, it may be too late. Early voting has already begun in many states, including in the critical battlegrounds of Virginia and North Carolina.
Republican National Committee officials believe there is one mechanism at their disposal to replace a nominee – but it would only be triggered should Trump choose to step aside. That will not happen, Trump said on Sunday.
“I haven’t heard from anyone saying I should drop out, and that would never happen, never happen,” Trump told The New York Times in an interview. “I am in this until the end.”
Should he change his mind, members of the committee would then vote on a new nominee according to Rule 9 of the party code – not in a popular vote, but in a ballot offered to the same number of delegates previously sent to the party’s convention, held in Cleveland in July.
An avalanche of criticism from party leadership prompted Trump to release a videotaped apology – his first such mea culpa in his short political career – largely characterized by American media as insincere. “I’ve never said I’m a perfect person, nor pretended to be someone that I’m not,” Trump said in monotone. “I’ve said and done things I regret, and the words released today on this more than a decade-old video are one of them. Anyone who knows me knows these words don’t reflect who I am.”
Yet his comments on this tape, 11 years old, reinforced a narrative that the candidate is disrespectful of women.
Throughout the past year alone, Trump has critiqued the face of his sole female primary opponent, called women pigs, slobs and dogs, questioned the effect of a female anchor’s menstrual cycle on her ability to do her job and repeatedly judged women based on their weight.
Trump’s support among white women is already at an historic low as he attempts to beat the first-ever female presidential nominee of a major party, Hillary Clinton.
“As a husband and father, I was offended by the words and actions described by Donald Trump in the 11-year-old video released yesterday,” said Mike Pence, Trump’s running mate, in a written statement on Saturday.
“I do not condone his remarks and cannot defend them.”
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said he was “sickened” by the video, and canceled a joint appearance with Trump and Pence scheduled for this weekend.
The highest-ranking member of Congress to call on Trump to exit the race was Sen. John Thune of South Dakota. “Donald Trump should withdraw and Mike Pence should be our nominee, effective immediately,” he wrote on Twitter.
His fellow senators, including Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Mike Crapo of Idaho and Mark Kirk of Illinois, also called on him to drop out, while senators Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Marco Rubio of Florida and Bob Corker of Tennessee stopped at calling his comments vulgar and repugnant.
“I was offended and dismayed by what was said and what was done by Donald Trump,” said Mitt Romney, the party’s nominee during the 2012 election cycle. “I think it’s degrading to our women, to our daughters, to our granddaughters – to future generations.”
Several of Trump’s former GOP primary rivals also piled on, including the governor of Ohio, John Kasich, who won his state’s primary and has left open the possibility of ultimately supporting Trump. But, “it is clear that he has not changed and has no interest in doing so,” Kasich said. “As a result, Donald Trump is a man I cannot and should not support.”
The video – which featured the former reality-TV star on a hot microphone speaking with Billy Bush, then of Access Hollywood – landed just ahead of the second presidential debate on Sunday night. The first debate attracted more than 80 million viewers.
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