Prominent Republicans in Washington state mostly condemned GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump’s crude remarks about women, but stopped short of calling for him to quit the ticket.
“Unfortunately, with these comments Donald Trump has lost my vote, ” said U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Auburn, who had previously said he wouldn’t endorse Trump.
State GOP Chairman Susan Hutchison drew national attention by claiming on Twitter that Trump “was a Democrat” when he made the 2005 remarks caught on video, and had been “channeling” Bill Clinton.
Trump was registered to vote in New York as a Democrat in 2001. He switched the affiliation to Republican in 2009, according to voter records detailed by the fact-checking organization PolitiFact. However, in a Fox News interview in 2005, Trump said he voted for Republican George W. Bush in the presidential race the previous year.
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“Certainly no one can justify what he said,” Hutchison said in an interview with KIRO TV. “But I also think we need perspective.”
Some Republicans and conservatives were aghast at Hutchison’s spin, saying Trump’s past political affiliations were not the point.
Todd Herman, a conservative talk show host on AM 770 KTTH, tweeted that Hutchison “has put @WAGOP on the record. It’s okay to grab a woman by her privates if you later pretend to be a Republican.”
He added: “Resign, now.”
Former state GOP Chairman Chris Vance said that the Clintons were beside the point and the actions Trump described amounted to sexual assault.
“And for those who point out the behavior of the Clintons, I would remind them that once upon a time Republicans believed that character matters and such misconduct disqualifies one from holding the nation’s highest office,” said Vance, who is running for U.S. Senate and declared months ago he would never support Trump.
Trump’s lewd comments, first published by The Washington Post, feature bragging in vulgar language about kissing, groping and attempting to have sex with women. “When you’re a star, they let you do it,” he says in the recording, picked up by a live microphone while talking with a host of “Access Hollywood.”
Saying he was “appalled” by Trump’s comments, former King County Sheriff Reichert said he put his life on the line to protect women from sexual violence and abuse. “The actions described in that video are absolutely reprehensible,” he said in a statement.
Spokane’s Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the highest-ranking Republican woman in Congress rebuked Trump for the profane comments.
“It is never appropriate to condone unwanted sexual advances or violence against women,” McMorris Rodgers, the No. 4 House Republican, said in a prepared statement Friday evening. “Mr. Trump must realize that it has no place in public or private conversations.”
McMorris Rodgers offered a tepid endorsement of Trump before Washington’s May primary, adding at the time that she “won’t be shy” about criticizing him.
She had previously criticized Trump in March for his long history of degrading remarks toward women.
McMorris Rodgers did not join a number of congressional Republicans calling for Trump to drop his candidacy, including Alaska Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo and Utah Sen. Mike Lee.
It’s too late in Washington state to take Trump off the ballot, even if he quit the race. Ballots have already been printed, and some 76,000 ballots were mailed weeks ago to overseas and military voters, said Secretary of State Kim Wyman.
Wyman, a Republican up for re-election, called Trump’s crude statements “indefensible and offensive.” She also said, “No one — woman or man — should ever be discussed in such a demeaning way.”
But as the state’s top elections official she said her goal has been to remain neutral in the presidential race to instill confidence in the ballot-counting process. “So I’m not going to weigh in on who I’m voting for, who I’m endorsing,” she said in a Saturday interview.
Even before the videotape controversy, other GOP figures in the state had distanced themselves from Trump. Gubernatorial candidate Bill Bryant has said he isn’t voting for Trump; ditto for former U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton and former Attorney General Rob McKenna, who called Trump “an opportunist and a demagogue.”
King County Republican Party Chairman Lori Sotelo criticized Trump but did not denounce his candidacy.
“I agree with RNC Chairman Reince Priebus when he said no woman should ever be talked about in such a manner. Ever. Such remarks are unacceptable and do not represent the character of the Republican Party,” Sotelo said in a statement.
Democrats didn’t hesitate to turn the lash on Republicans. “Susan Hutchison is the number-one Trump supporter in the nation over the last 24 hours,” said state Senate Democratic Leader Sharon Nelson, calling Hutchison an “embarrassment to our state and her party.”
In a late-night apology Friday, Trump said the profane comments “don’t reflect” the man he is today. But he, too, cited the Clintons, saying the former president “has actually abused women” and that Hillary has “bullied, attacked, shamed and intimidated his victims.