Presidential nominee Donald Trump vowed on Saturday to remain in the race even as his campaign was thrown into crisis as his own running mate criticized him and some prominent Republicans withdrew support and urged him to drop out following news of a recording of him making lewd comments in 2005.
Trump told the Wall Street Journal on Saturday morning “zero chance I’ll quit.” He also told The Washington Post he may deliver a speech Saturday afternoon to address concern among supporters and reiterate his determination to stay in the race.
In an unusual move, vice presidential running mate Mike Pence issued a critical statement, posting on the social media website Twitter that he cannot defend the nominee.
“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,” Pence, who is governor of Indiana, said in a statement. “I do not condone his remarks and cannot defend them.”
A hastily recorded apology by Trump early Saturday morning did not stymie an avalanche of calls from members of his party to quit. At least three Republican members of the Senate announced they will not vote for him and former rival Carly Fiorina called on him to withdraw.
The 2005 video of Trump talking on an open microphone showed the then-reality TV star speaking openly about groping women and trying to seduce a married woman. The video was taped only months after Trump married his third wife, Melania.
Trump quickly moved to conduct damage control in Saturday’s video in which he declared himself a changed man and attempted to shift the focus to his opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton. He threatened, again, to focus his attacks on the infidelities of her husband, former President Bill Clinton, saying he would talk more about the pasts of both Clintons with only a month until the Nov. 8 election. Trump has dismissed questions about his own marital infidelities as irrelevant.
There is no precedent for a major party to replace its nominee this late in the campaign and it is unclear if there is an avenue to force him out. Voting has begun in several states, including the important swing states of Virginia and North Carolina.
Trump took to Twitter on Saturday morning, seeming to make light of the controversy by posting: “Certainly has been an interesting 24 hours!”
“Anyone who knows me knows these words don’t reflect who I am. I said it, I was wrong, and I apologize,” Trump said in his video statement, posted on his Facebook page.
The video overshadowed the publication of excerpts of Clinton’s paid closed-door speeches made public on Friday by a hacker who claimed to have obtained them from the email account of John Podesta, the chairman of the Democrat’s campaign. In the speeches, she advocates for more open borders and trade, a position she abandoned during the primary because it was untenable to Democratic progressives. Trump has repeatedly criticized her for her past support of free trade.
The publication of the excerpts and the latest Trump controversy emerged shortly before the second presidential debate on Sunday night, seen as critical for Trump to try to rebound from a dip in some polls after a rocky performance in the first debate.
Trump has struggled to win over women voters, and the video is expected to further feed Democratic criticism about his past behavior toward women.
“I did try and fuck her. She was married,” Trump said about one woman, before discussing his attraction to others.
“I just start kissing them,” he said. “And when you’re a star they let you do it.”
“Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything,” Trump said.
House Speaker Paul Ryan disinvited Trump to a scheduled appearance on Saturday afternoon in Wisconsin. His running mate was slated to replace him but campaign advisor Boris Epshteyn told MSNBC a scheduling conflict prevented Pence from speaking.
Prominent Republican women delivered scathing criticisms. Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte, of New Hampshire, said she will not vote for Trump. Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito, of West Virginia, called his remarks “disgusting and demeaning.”
“Women have worked hard to gain the dignity and respect we deserve,” Moore Capito said. “The appropriate next step may be for him to reexamine his candidacy.”
Martha Roby, a Republican member of Congress from Alabama, said in a statement: “Donald Trump’s behavior makes him unacceptable as a candidate for president, and I won’t vote for him. Hillary Clinton must not be president, but, with Trump leading the ticket, she will be.”
U.S. Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah, one of Clinton’s fiercest critics, retracted his endorsement of Trump, telling CNN he would not be able to look his 15-year-old daughter in the eye if he voted for him.
Utah’s Republican Governor Gary Herbert said on Twitter he too would no longer vote for Trump, saying: “Tonight, millions of Republicans are facing a moment of truth.”
Republican lawmaker Mike Coffman from Colorado told CBS Trump should step aside and said “his defeat … seems almost certain.”
Other prominent Republicans, however, indicated they would stick with Trump. Ralph Reed, head of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, and Tony Perkins, head of the conservative Family Research Council, said they would continue to support him.
Conservatives point to the fact that the winner of the November election will get to appoint a Supreme Court justice as reason to stick with Trump despite the video. Greg Mueller, a conservative Republican strategist, pointed to Clinton’s views on abortion as a reason religious voters will stick with Trump.
“Nothing indefensible that Donald Trump said 20 years ago is going to change that,” he said. “Plus, to many religious voters, Mrs. Clinton is the epitome of a corrupt politician.”
Representative Jack Kingston, a Republican from Georgia, argued Trump has changed since the video was filmed.
“I think 10 years ago he was a different man …, I am very glad that he quickly apologized,” Kingston said. -Reuters