Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Saturday that Donald Trump’s recorded remarks about women are “reprehensible and cannot be justified,” but he did not join a growing number of national Republicans in pulling his endorsement. Speaker Jeremy Gillam, R-Judsonia, meanwhile, became the most prominent Arkansas Republican to call on Trump to withdraw from the Presidential race.
At least one member of Arkansas’ Congressional delegation would support Trump stepping away from the ticket.
In an emailed statement, Hutchinson wrote, ”The conduct of Mr. Trump in 2005 is reprehensible and cannot be justified. And while he has acknowledged it as wrong and apologized, it is important that he demonstrate in the debate on Sunday and continuing into the future that he understands and respects the value of women. Both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump are imperfect as candidates and so the decision must be on the issues of national security, growing our economy and the direction of the Supreme Court.”
Asked if he plans to continue supporting Trump, Hutchinson responded, “My statement stands as is.”
Meanwhile, Gillam said in a statement, ”Although I have not been a supporter of Mr. Trump in the past, I have remained hopeful that he would give me a reason to vote for my party’s nominee. I no longer have that hope. I believe he should withdraw from the race immediately.”
ARKANSAS’ CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION
The six members of Arkansas’ congressional delegation were asked their opinions by Talk Business & Politics.
U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark.: “As a husband, father of 3 daughters, and grandfather of two precious little girls, if I ever heard anyone speak this way about them, they would be shopping for a new set of teeth. Every day this presidential race becomes less about the issues facing our country and more and more about a race to the bottom of humanity. I am focused on saving the US Senate and being there to fight for Arkansas in the conservative manner they expect.”
When asked if Boozman will vote for Trump, a Boozman campaign staffer responded: “The Senator’s statement stands as is.”
U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, said he would support Pence leading the GOP ticket.
”Donald Trump’s recently surfaced comments from 2005 are disgusting and would be fighting words had they been said about my wife or daughter. In these uncertain times, America needs leadership we can respect and trust and our current choices of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are proving to provide neither. My preference is for Mr. Trump to give serious thought as to what is best for our country. If that is to step aside and let Gov. Pence lead the ticket to prevent a Hillary Clinton presidency, then I would be in full support,” Westerman said in a statement to Talk Business & Politics.
U.S. Rep. Steve Womack’s communications director, Mary Claire Burghoff sent this statement: “Congressman Womack believes Trump’s 2005 comments are disgusting and completely indefensible. He has said all along that this election must be a contest of ideas – not personalities – and most importantly, about protecting the conservative balance of the Supreme Court.”
When asked if Womack’s statement upheld his his endorsement of Trump, Burghoff response: “You have our statement.”
U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, who said he has not withdrawn his support for Trump, noted: ”Disrespect for women in no way reflects the conservative values of the America I want to live in. His statements about women are beyond inappropriate, regardless of context. Trump will need to prove to America that he’s changed since those comments were made.”
Responses have not been received from U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock.
Arkansas Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin: “I agree wholeheartedly with my friend and former colleague Mike Pence that Donald Trump’s comments are both offensive and indefensible. As a husband and father, I would add unacceptable and disgusting.”
When asked if he planned to continue supporting Trump or explore alternatives, Griffin noted: “Because I understand the importance of conservative appointments and because of deep trust in Mike Pence, I am supporting the Republican ticket.”
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge: “I cannot condone or defend the words of Mr. Trump. Mr. Trump has acknowledged how offensive these remarks were and is asking for forgiveness. There is no perfect candidate. I will continue to support the only candidate in this race who will get federal regulations off the backs of American workers, keep our families safe from terrorists and appoint conservative judges and justices who will serve on the bench and shape the future of our country long past the term of the next president.”
Sen. John Boozman’s Democratic opponent, Conner Eldridge, released a statement saying, “Sen. Boozman has remained silent in the face of these horrific comments. Even now, when member after member of his own party have denounced their support for Donald Trump or pressured him to withdraw from the race, we’ve heard nothing from Sen. Boozman. I’ve said it before and I will again: If Sen. Boozman will not condemn an action that is so clearly wrong now, how can we expect him to stand up for what’s right in the years ahead?”
ARKANSAS GOP LEGISLATORS REACT
At the state level, Rep. David Meeks, R-Conway, who previously had said he almost certainly would not vote for Trump, called for Trump to leave the race and be replaced by vice presidential nominee Mike Pence, writing on Twitter, “My position has not changed. I will not be voting for Trump & believe he needs to step down immediately. Let Pence lead.”
Sen. Jim Hendren, R-Gravette, wrote in a text, “Trump’s hateful, chauvinistic and profane comments continue to disgust me. I know for certain that I will not vote for Hilary Clinton. I grieve the fact that this is the choice that Americans are being forced to make.”
On Facebook, Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Conway, continued to express support for Trump, writing that the recording “proves what we have all known and what Trump has never denied – he has not shown the proper behavior in the past.” However, he said that voters should choose the party that “will support political policies that are in the best interests of the American people.” He said that while Clinton “is an unrepentant liar,” Trump “has lived the life of a playboy, and he now apologizes for his behavior.”
Rep. Nate Bell of Mena, an independent who previously served as a Republican, has been a vocal opponent of Trump. On Facebook, he wrote, “Men supporting tRump have only themselves to blame if their sons grow up to be sexual predators. What you excuse and justify is what they’ll believe is OK. Your daughters? Do you want them to think that sort of behavior is what YOU do behind closed doors? Do you want them to tolerate sexual assault as normal when a man just walks up and grabs their genitals? What you excuse and justify is what they’ll know as your values.”
Politico reported Saturday that the Republican National Committee’s lawyers are examining what legally can be done to remove Trump from the ticket, though such a removal would require Trump’s consent, which he has said he won’t give. Politico also reported that the RNC also wrote in email to a mail vendor to hold all mail production. “Will update you when to proceed,” wrote Lauren Toomey with the RNC.
Nationally, Republicans have criticized Trump’s remarks. His running mate, Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, cancelled an appearance on his behalf in Wisconsin.
A number of Republican officials have called on Trump to drop out of the race, including Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona, Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, Mark Kirk of Illinois, and Mike Crapo of Idaho. Carly Fiorina, whose face Trump famously insulted during the primary campaign, called on him to withdraw. Both of Nebraska’s Republican senators, Ben Sasse and Deb Fischer, called on Trump to resign. Sasse has been a vocal opponent of Trump’s, Fischer a vocal supporter. Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan called for Trump to drop out of the race.
His fellow Alaska senator, Lisa Murkowski, said on Twitter, “I cannot and will not support Donald Trump for president. He has forfeited the right to be our party’s nominee.” Many of Utah’s leading Republicans: Gov. Gary Herbert, Sen. Mike Lee, Rep. Mia Love, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, and Rep. Chris Stewart, withdrew their support or called on Trump to leave the campaign.
Other prominent Republicans expressed their disappointment in a variety of ways. Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, facing a tough re-election campaign, withdrew her endorsement. Rep. Joe Heck, a Senate candidate running for the Nevada seat being vacated by Sen. Harry Reid, pulled his support. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Trump’s replacement host on NBC’s “The Apprentice,” released a statement saying that, “For the first time since I became a citizen in 1983, I will not vote for the Republican candidate for President.” Conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt called on Trump to leave the race.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican who never endorsed Trump, released a statement saying, “It’s clear that he hasn’t changed and has no interest in doing so. As a result, Donald Trump is a man I cannot and should not support. … I will not vote for a nominee who has behaved in a manner that reflects so poorly on our country. Our country deserves better.”
TRUMP’S COMMENTS, APOLOGY
The 2005 recording features Trump having a private conversation with Billy Bush, then a co-host with “Access Hollywood” as they arrived on the set of “Days of Our Lives,” where Trump made a cameo appearance.
Trump said, “You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful – I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. You just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. … Grab them by the p—-y. You can do anything.”
Trump, then married to his current wife, Melania, can be heard saying he had tried without success to have sex with a married woman, even taking her furniture shopping. He said in the recording that the woman has “phony (breasts).”
After the backlash erupted late Friday, Trump released a videotaped apology around midnight saying, “I’ve never said I’m a perfect person nor pretended to be someone that I’m not. I’ve said and done things that I regret, and the words released 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. I said it, I was wrong, and I apologize.”
He said his travels across America running for president have changed him.
“I have gotten to know the great people of our country, and I’ve been humbled by the faith they’ve placed in me,” he said. “I pledge to be a better man tomorrow and will never, ever let you down.”
He called it a “nothing more than distraction from the important issues we’re facing today” and said “Hillary Clinton and her kind have run our country into the ground. …
“I’ve said some foolish things, but there’s a big difference between the words and actions of other people. Bill Clinton has actually abused women, and Hillary has bullied, attacked, shamed and intimidated his victims. We will discuss this more in the coming days. See you at the debate on Sunday.”
After the comments became public, Hillary Clinton wrote on Twitter, “This is horrific. We cannot allow this man to become president.”