New York Republicans from Rep. Chris Collins and Carl Paladino to the state party chairman are standing by their man – GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump – even though top party figures nationwide abandoned his candidacy Saturday after the release of a 2005 video showing him bragging about groping women.
Collins – the first member of the House to endorse Trump – termed Trump’s comments “frankly unacceptable,” but added: “There is no change in my support of Mr. Trump as our nominee because he remains the only candidate who will bring our jobs back, secure our borders and stand up to our enemies.”
Similarly, Rep. Tom Reed, Paladino and state GOP Chairman Edward F. Cox all stopped short of calling on Trump to abandon his candidacy.
Meantime, though, dozens of prominent Republicans – including Sen. John Thune, the third-ranking Republican in the Senate, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the 2008 GOP nominee, and several other lawmakers enduring tight re-election races – either announced they could not support Trump or suggested he leave the ticket.
“Donald Trump should withdraw and Mike Pence should be our nominee effective immediately,” Thune tweeted, urging that Trump’s running mate, the governor of Indiana, replace him.
In contrast, Collins – one of Trump’s main defenders on national news broadcasts – criticized Trump while continuing to support his candidacy.
The Clarence Republican, who ignored requests for an interview, released a statement calling Trump’s comments “disappointing and frankly unacceptable.”
“There is no room in our society for comments like these,” Collins said. “Mr. Trump has since apologized for his actions.”
As for Reed, R-Corning, his campaign spokesman responded to a request for an interview by issuing a statement from the congressman that said: “Women are never to be talked about in this way. As someone with eight older sisters, a wife and daughter I care deeply about, it is disappointing and offensive to hear these words. It is not right and these comments must be called out for what they are, just wrong.”
Paladino, a Buffalo developer who ran an unsuccessful bid for New York governor in 2010, said he didn’t condone Trump’s remarks, but insisted the press is making too much of them.
“All men look at a pretty girl and say, ‘Wow’,” Paladino said. “It will be nice to have a president who not only acts human, he is human. He’s like any other Joe on the street except with intestinal fortitude.”
Paladino insisted that Trump’s comments pale in comparison to the sexual transgressions of former President Bill Clinton, who was impeached by Congress after lying about an affair with an intern.
“That’s the way men talk,” Paladino said. “Call it locker room talk, but women talk that way; men talk that way. It comes absolutely nowhere near the travesty of Bill Clinton.”
Michael R. Caputo, a local GOP consultant who worked briefly for Trump, signaled that the candidate ought to attack Bill Clinton’s sexual history in Trump’s debate against Clinton’s wife, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, on Sunday.
“He has to go nuclear,” Caputo said. “Holding back anything at all would be campaign malpractice.”
But both Nicholas A. Langworthy, the Erie County Republican chairman, and Cox, the state chair, said it’s important that Trump show that he regrets what he said on that video.
“Trump has to address this situation and these comments,” said Langworthy.
Cox said of Trump: “He needs to say that 11 years ago ‘I have misspoken on a number of occasions. But I have been transparent. She (Clinton) has not. Going forward as president of the United States, I will use words and do things you will be proud of.’”
Cox said women who were offended by Trump’s comments would vote for him if he could convince them that he will bring good jobs back to America, but Langworthy acknowledged Trump’s comments in that 2005 video were “a massive distraction” from the issues Trump needs to stress.
Apparently recorded without Trump’s knowledge, the video shows Trump speaking with Billy Bush, then of “Access Hollywood,” while arriving on the set of “Days of Our Lives,” a soap opera where Trump made a cameo appearance.
The video, recorded several months after Trump married his current wife, Melania, shows him bragging about advances on an unnamed woman.
“I did try and ---- her. She was married,” Trump said.
Trump also said his status as a “star” helped him to get away with advances toward women.
“Grab them by the -----,” Trump said in a reference to female genitalia. “You can do anything.”
While many top New York Republicans continued to back Trump, former Gov. George Pataki and Rep. John Katko, R-Camillus, called on Trump to leave the race.
“I’m horrified by #TrumpTape news. @realDonaldTrump campaign is a poisonous mix of bigotry & ignorance. Enough! He needs to step down,” Pataki tweeted Friday night, making him one of the first prominent Republicans nationwide to call for Trump to leave the GOP ticket.
Asked if Trump should drop out, Katko told Syracuse.com: “I think Trump should think seriously about doing so. In my mind, he should. His comments cannot be justified and crosses every line you can imagine.”
The idea of a Trump withdrawal is fraught with difficulty, though, because early voting has started in some states and the presidential ballot is already set in many others.
Even so, his comments on that 2005 tape set off a wave of abandonment among top Republicans. More than two dozen GOP members of Congress called on Trump to withdraw and be replaced by Pence, the Washington Post reported. Five of the six women Republicans serving in the Senate said they could not support Trump.
And McCain, a senior party leader and Vietnam War hero, said Trump’s “boasts about sexual assaults” made it impossible for the senator to continue supporting the GOP nominee.
Other top Republicans, such as House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, harshly criticized Trump but stopped short of abandoning his candidacy.
Meanwhile, Democrats – especially those challenging Trump’s defenders in the November election – took aim at the GOP nominee and those who continued to back him.
Diana Kastenbaum, a Batavia businesswoman and Democrat who is challenging Collins, said that Collin’s statement criticizing Trump but then re-endorsing him is part of a pattern whereby the Clarence congressman disavows Trump’s comments but not his candidacy.
“When is Chris Collins going to have a backbone and stand up to this kind of misogyny?” Kastenbaum asked. “There are no more excuses.”
Reed’s opponent, former White House military aide John Plumb, lashed into Reed for his “dangerous double-speak” regarding Trump.
“It is clear that he (Reed) made a self-serving political calculation that this is the best way to advance his Washington career and the special interests that he protects,” Plumb said.
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