As more Republicans nationwide withdraw their support for GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump in the wake of recently revealed explicit statements he made about women, local congressional candidates also are denouncing Trump’s words, albeit at different levels.
On Friday, news networks aired footage from a 2005 video released by The Washington Post and NBC News, where Trump described his interactions with women. In the video, Trump is heard using lewd sexual terms to portray how he can do “anything” with women because of his celebrity status. The revelations come just ahead of the second televised debate, scheduled for 6 p.m. Sunday, between Trump and Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton.
In the 10th Congressional District race, where incumbent Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, faces Democrat Michael Eggman, Trump’s quest for the White House has loomed large. Eggman and his campaign have frequently attacked Denham as a Trump ally. Denham, when asked about his feelings toward Trump, wrote in a Modesto Bee opinion column that while he has concerns about both nominees, Trump is the preferable alternative for the Oval Office, despite his “disturbing, inappropriate and outlandish” rhetoric.
The Modesto Bee reached out to Denham’s campaign Saturday, asking for the congressman’s thoughts on Trump’s 2005 statements about women. Dave Gilliard, Denham’s campaign spokesman, emailed a statement to The Bee from the congressman Saturday. “I was deeply disappointed to hear about Donald Trump’s language toward women and I find it to be beyond inappropriate from anyone, but especially someone seeking the highest office in the land,” Denham said in the statement.
Not long after sending the first statement, Gilliard sent a revised statement from the congressman that read: “I was deeply disappointed to hear about Donald Trump’s language toward women and I find it to be beyond inappropriate.”
Still, it’s unclear from the statement whether Denham will still support Trump in the aftermath of video revelations. The Bee on Saturday requested an interview with Denham, but Gilliard said the congressman would be unavailable during the weekend because of the death of his mother-in-law. The Bee also asked Gilliard whether Denham still supports Trump. That question remains unanswered. “I don’t have any more answers for you – he has shut down the phone and is with his wife and family,” Gilliard wrote in an email.
Asked Saturday about Trump’s statements about women, Eggman said those words “are shocking and I agree with almost every single American that this is beyond the pale. Let’s be clear, he is talking about sexual assault, which is indefensible and inexcusable.”
Eggman criticized his opponent for not stepping back from his support of Trump. “It shouldn’t take over a day to say sexual assault is wrong. The fact that he’s still standing by him is an example of Denham putting party over country, and that’s inexcusable,” Eggman said.
Eggman also criticized Denham’s support of Trump, despite statements Trump made about Latinos – words many consider to be racist and divisive. “It’s clear to me (Denham) shouldn’t represent our district,” Eggman added.
Trump’s statements about women were captured while he spoke to Billy Bush, then-host of “Access Hollywood” in 2005. During the conversation between Trump and Bush, their microphones were apparently still on. Trump boasted to Bush about his pursuit of women.
The 10th Congressional District includes Stanislaus and southern San Joaquin counties.
Late Friday, Trump released a 90-second video statement on Facebook, apologizing for the statements he made in the 2005 video. “Anyone who knows me knows these words don’t reflect who I am. I said it, I was wrong, and I apologize,” Trump said. He also said release of the comments from the “decade-old video” was “a distraction from the important issues we are facing today.”
In the aftermath of the revealed statements by Trump, many Republican legislators began taking back their support.
Alabama Rep. Martha Roby said Saturday that Trump’s newly disclosed comments about women make him “unacceptable” for the office. Trump should “step aside and allow a responsible, respectable Republican to lead the ticket,” she said.
Arizona Sen. John McCain and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert both pulled their support of Trump. Utah Republicans such as Sen. Mike Lee; Reps. Jason Chaffetz, Chris Stewart and Mia Love; and former Gov. Jon Huntsman all called for Trump to abandon his campaign.
GOP vice presidential nominee Mike Pence’s advocacy for Trump came to a screeching, perhaps temporary, halt as well. Pence said Saturday in a statement about Trump that he won’t “condone his remarks and cannot defend them.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan and other high-profile Republicans have refused to completely abandon their nominee, who has long faced criticism from within his own party, but never to this degree. Frustration has turned to panic across the GOP with early voting already underway in some states and Election Day one month away.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.