LATEST: Trump under fire for comments about women, losing endorsements
(CNN) — UPDATE: Melania Trump condemned remarks made by her husband, Donald Trump, in 2005 in which he made sexually aggressive remarks about women.
“The words my husband used are unacceptable and offensive to me,” she said in a statement released by Donald Trump’s campaign. “This does not represent the man that I know. He has the heart and mind of a leader. I hope people will accept his apology, as I have, and focus on the important issues facing our nation and the world. ”
Donald Trump on Saturday vowed to “never” drop out of the presidential race as a growing chorus of Republicans urged him to do exactly that after sexually aggressive remarks he made in 2005 surfaced a day earlier.
Trump’s defiance came as his own running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, said he was “offended” by Trump’s remarks and canceled plans to represent him at a political event on Saturday. Meanwhile, the third-most powerful Senate Republican, John Thune, a member of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s inner circle, called on Trump to “withdraw” and let Pence top the Republican ticket just a month from Election Day.
Republican elected officials and party elders lined up Saturday to denounce Donald Trump’s incendiary remarks about women that he made in 2005. Some sitting members of Congress pulled their support entirely, while others blasted the remarks but continued supporting the GOP standard-bearer. Some said they wanted Trump to step aside so that his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, can lead the ticket.
Here’s a list of where they stand.
Pulling support entirely
Some party members who were lukewarm on Trump ran away from the nominee shortly after the comments came to light.
Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo on Saturday became the first sitting Republican senator to back away from Trump following the incendiary comments. “This is not a decision that I have reached lightly, but his pattern of behavior has left me no choice. His repeated actions and comments toward women have been disrespectful, profane and demeaning.”
Soon after Crapo’s announcement, Ayotte also said she would not vote for Trump. In August, Ayotte had said she would vote for Trump but not formally endorse him. She said Saturday she will instead be writing in Pence on Election Day.
In the House, Alabama Rep. Martha Roby said Saturday she will not vote for him. Roby is from a safe district and is often featuring in GOP family friendly initiatives. Maine Sen. Susan Collins said she is “still not voting for Hillary, and still plan to write in someone.” Alabama’s Republican governor, Robert Bentley, said in a statement he cannot and will not vote for Donald Trump.”
Friday night, House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz became the first sitting Republican congressman to pull his support for Trump in the wake of the 2005 video, which was surfaced by The Washington Post earlier in the day. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert on Friday became the first sitting Republican governor to withdraw his vote over the comments, which he called “offensive and despicable.” Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski said Trump has “forfeited the right to be our party’s nominee.”
Sticking by Trump
Many Republicans, beginning on Friday night and into Saturday, slammed Trump over the remarks but either said he was preferable over Democrat Hillary Clinton or didn’t address their support for him at all.
Pence said he does not “condone” Trump’s remarks and “cannot defend them” but is “grateful that he has expressed remorse and apologized.” Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the No. 2 Senate Republican, tweeted he is “disgusted by Mr Trump’s words” and is “profoundly disappointed by the race to the bottom this presidential campaign has become.” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said “there is absolutely no place” for Trump’s language in American society and that he “must” make a “full and unqualified apology.” Top Trump surrogate Ben Carson said “in no way do I condone Trump’s behavior” but said he was “fairly certain” progressives knew about Trump’s 2005 remarks but waited until now to damage his candidacy.
Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise said “women deserve to be treated with respect. Period,” and that Trump should make “a direct apology.” Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, a rising star in the party, called Trump’s remarks “lewd and insulting.” Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul called Trump’s comments “offensive and unacceptable” — but a spokesman didn’t respond when asked if Paul was still going to vote for Trump
Pence for president
Several Republicans said Pence should lead the ticket.
South Dakota Sen. John Thune, the No. 3 Senate Republican and a member of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s inner circle, wants Trump to “withdraw,” saying, “Mike Pence should be our nominee effective immediately.” Nevada Rep. Joe Heck — who is running for Democratic leader Harry Reid’s Senate seat — said Trump should “step down and allow Republicans the opportunity to elect someone who will provide us with the strong leadership so desperately needed.” South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard is backing Pence tweeting that “enough is enough” and “this election is too important” to keep backing Trump. Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Virginia, said Trump’s comments were “disgusting, vile and disqualifying” and called for Pence “or another appropriate nominee” to replace him. Dan Sullivan, Alaska’s junior Republican senator, called on Trump to step aside for Pence as the billionaire “can’t lead on critical issue of ending domestic violence and sexual assault.” “It would be wise for him to step aside and allow Mike Pence to serve as our party’s nominee,” Nebraska Sen. Deb Fischer tweeted. Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Missouri, wrote, “I withdraw my endorsement and call for Governor Pence to take the lead so we can defeat Hillary Clinton.”
#NeverTrump digs in
Republicans who have opposed Trump for months were only too happy to once again declare their opposition to him.
Former presidential candidate Jeb Bush said that “no apology can excuse away Donald Trump’s reprehensible comments degrading women.” Ohio Gov. John Kasich on Saturday made it clear he would not vote for Trump, adding, “Nothing that has happened in the last 48 hours is surprising to me or many others.” Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse tweeted, “character matters” and said Trump should “make an honorable move” and “step aside & let Mike Pence try.” Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger — who campaigned with Kasich during the primaries — said Saturday this election will be the first presidential contest where he won’t vote for the GOP candidate.
CNN’s Manu Raju, Dana Bash and Ashley Killough contributed to this report.