Rep. Tom Reed said Tuesday that he could rescind his endorsement of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump if further negative revelations surface about the candidate’s past. But Republican congressman from Corning also said he would still be willing to campaign with Trump if given the opportunity.
Speaking before The Buffalo News editorial board, Reed said he and his wife were deeply troubled by a 2005 audio tape that showed Trump bragging about groping women.
“It is something I’m wrestling with, to be perfectly honest,” Reed said.
Reed for years has voiced concerns about sexual assault, frequently mentioning that the issue had affected him personally because a niece of his had been raped.
That being the case, upon hearing the Trump tape, “it’s very hard for me not to have a personal, visceral response to it,” he said.
Reed said he texted Eric Trump, the candidate’s son, after hearing about the tape to express those concerns.
And while Reed said Donald Trump took some good early steps in apologizing for the words on the tape, the congressman remains worried – and willing to rescind his endorsement of Trump if need be.
“There are things that are very troublesome to me as a person, and we’re keeping a close eye on it,” Reed said.
Asked what it would take for him to rescind his endorsement, Reed said: “That’s something I will not speculate on. It’s not appropriate to do that. But I will always reserve the right to express how I feel.”
On the tape, Trump described grabbing women by the genitals. Asked if that constituted sexual assault, Reed said it would have – if Trump had actually done it.
“Now he says he didn’t do that,” Reed said. “You saw him at the debate. He said no, he didn’t do that. This was talk. So I don’t think we’re talking about sexual assault here in the way some people are portraying it as. Now the rhetoric and the talk is wrong in and of itself. And we were very clear about that and we remain very clear about that.”
Despite Reed’s struggle over Trump’s comments on the tape, one thing keeps him firmly in the GOP nominee’s camp.
“I’m looking at the choice, and I just cannot support the policies of Hillary Clinton,” Reed said.
In particular, he said he was concerned that Clinton’s policies would balloon the national debt.
In fact, Reed’s concerns about Clinton are so strong that he said he would still campaign with Trump if given the opportunity.
“I think he is the best chance we have to disrupt Washington, D.C.,” he said.
Asked if voters might look at his comments and speculate that he was trying to have it both ways – to both condemn Trump and support him – Reed said his position is nothing unusual.
“I’m just trying to be honest,” he said. “I think a lot of Americans are conflicted with these candidates.”
Reed – who condemned Trump’s comments in a statement on Saturday only to reaffirm his support for the GOP candidate in a statement on Monday – seemed frustrated by the choice the American people face in the November election.
“I’ll be honest with you: 300 million people in America and this is what we’re producing to lead the country?” he said. “I have some concerns.”