House Speaker Paul D. Ryan asked Donald Trump not to attend a campaign event with him Saturday as scores of other Republicans attempt to distance themselves from the party’s nominee — some rescinding their endorsements or calling for him to resign — following the disclosure on Friday of a 2005 video in which Trump made lewd comments about women.
Ryan and Trump were expected to appear in Ryan’s home state of Wisconsin on the eve of the second presidential debate, but Ryan called off the plan, according to two people familiar with the discussions. Ryan and Trump did not speak personally on Friday, one of them said.
Ryan said in statement late Friday that Trump “is no longer attending” the event — a festival in Ryan’s Wisconsin congressional district.
He decried Trump’s newly revealed comments in stark terms.
“I am sickened by what I heard today,” Ryan said. “Women are to be championed and revered, not objectified. I hope Mr. Trump treats this situation with the seriousness it deserves and works to demonstrate to the country that he has greater respect for women than this clip suggests.”
In a short statement issued moments after Ryan’s, Trump said his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence “will be representing me” at the Wisconsin event while he remained in New York to prepare for Sunday’s town hall debate.
Trump’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment on whose decision it was for him not to attend.
The graphic comments, which Trump made in 2005 on a bus and on the set of a soap opera, feature him bragging about his sexual pursuit of a married woman.
“And when you’re a star they let you do it,” Trump says. “Grab them by the p—y. You can do anything.”
What remains to be seen is whether the new revelations, first disclosed by The Washington Post, will trigger a broader abandonment of Trump by GOP officeholders.
So far the movement to abandon Trump has been a trickle.
Utah’s Republican Gov. Gary Herbert said that he can no longer support Trump and he was followed quickly by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who also rescinded his endorsement of Trump. Both politicians face a Republican base in their states that has been cold to Trump.
“I’m out,” said Chaffetz on CNN. “I think we should all stand up and say we should not tolerate this.”
“I can’t do that with my 15-year-old daughter, so why should I do it with the rest of Utah,” he added.
And in a video message, Utah Senator Mike Lee, a longtime Trump critic, called on Trump to resign.
“We have been asked to settle on matters of great principle with our candidate for president of the United States,” Lee said. “This can’t continue. It’s time for us not to settle; it’s time for us to expect more.”
“Mr. Trump, I respectfully ask you with all due respect to step aside, step down, allow someone else to carry the banner of these principles,” he added.
Republican lawmakers who were already skeptical of Trump were quick to condemn him, and some of that faction went further.
Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois, who is running an uphill reelection race, called on Trump to drop out, and Herbert, who represents a state where Trump performed poorly in the GOP primary, said he would no longer vote for him.
But GOP congressional leaders who have endorsed Trump or said they would vote for them, while strongly condemning the newly disclosed remarks, stopped short of rescinding their support.
Many of them urged him to make a full public apology.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the comments are “repugnant, and unacceptable in any circumstance” and made clear Trump’s brief statement would not suffice.
“As the father of three daughters, I strongly believe that Trump needs to apologize directly to women and girls everywhere, and take full responsibility for the utter lack of respect for women shown in his comments on that tape,” he said late Friday.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif) also called on Trump to issue a “full and unqualified apology.”
The sheer vulgarity of Trump’s remarks — which included a discussion of the liberties he believed famous men could take with women — made the video difficult for GOP leaders to ignore.
Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee who has vocally criticized Trump, said that Trump’s comments “corrupt America’s” image to the world.
“Hitting on married women? Condoning assault? Such vile degradations demean our wives and daughters and corrupt America’s face to the world,” Romney said.
Trump dismissed his remarks as “locker room banter” and said he apologized “if anyone was offended.”
But allies of Hillary Clinton called it something else: sexual assault.
“Donald Trump apparently thinks he has the right to sexually assault women because he’s famous,” said NARAL Pro-Choice America National Communications Director Kaylie Hanson Long. “Never mind consent, he doesn’t think he needs it.
“He’s not a role model, he’s vulgar and dangerous, and his disregard for women has never been more clear,” she added.
Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, predicted in an interview that it would sink his candidacy.
“If someone, quote, grabbed someone by the p—y, to quote Donald Trump, on a subway or on a bus or at a school, they would be in jail. They would be arrested and prosecuted, and they would go to jail,” Laguens said. “I think we are now moving to the end of the end of Donald Trump.”
The Clinton campaign’s deputy communications director Christina Reynolds added: “This is horrific. We cannot allow this man to become president.”
Republican strategists warned that the comments combined with the timing — just days before the second presidential debate in St. Louis — could leave a mark.
“This one will cause real damage,” Republican pollster Frank Luntz said. “Every hour Trump waits to respond, it’s another 10,000 votes for Hillary. He owes the American people an explanation. What is taking so long?”
And how Trump handles the questioning at the debate on Sunday could help determine how much of an impact it has on voters, said Sarah Isgur Flores, a Republican strategist and former deputy campaign manager to presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina.
“It’s an understatement to say this now means Trump heads into Sunday’s debate on defense, which hasn’t worked out well for a candidate that has trouble staying on message even under normal circumstances,” Flores said. “That being said, there’s a huge overlap between Trump voters and voters who already think Trump is a risky bet.
“So unclear whether this alone will move numbers, but it does make his ability to handle it at the debate in 48 hours wildly more important,” she added.
Women are already a challenging demographic for Trump in many battleground states, and Republicans’ swift reaction to these latest revelations signal how damaging they think it could be for the party and the Republican nominee.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), the highest-ranking woman in House GOP leadership, who said Trump “owes it to our party and our country to treat everyone respectfully” when she endorsed him in May.
“It is never appropriate to condone unwanted sexual advances or violence against women,” said McMorris Rodgers, the Republican Conference chairwoman. “Mr. Trump must realize that it has no place in public or private conversations today or in the past.”
Two senators who have already kept their distance from Trump — Kirk and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) — were more sharply critical. “DJT is a malignant clown – unprepared and unfit to be president of the United States,” tweeted Kirk, who is seeking reelection in a heavily Democratic states and has already announced his intention to write in a presidential candidate rather than vote for Trump.
He later tweeted that Trump should drop out of the race.
Flake also tweeted his disapproval.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), facing a tough reelection battle, issued a statement carefully distancing herself from Trump.
“His comments are totally inappropriate and offensive,” Ayotte said.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), one of Trump’s former rivals for the GOP nomination, also voiced his condemnation of Trump’s 2005 remarks.
Hillary Clinton’s aides expect the issue to be a major one in Sunday night’s debate at Washington University.
Before then, however, the campaign has been galvanizing supporters with the new revelations, encouraging them to register to vote and to donate to the campaign.
Democrats on Friday sought to heighten the pressure on Republican candidates to repudiate Trump entirely. Virtually every Democratic Senate candidate issued statements to that effect, noting that their opponents had stopped short of a total denunciation.
Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) called it a “moment of truth for Republicans.”
“It is time for every Republican elected official in this county to revoke their endorsements of Donald Trump and state that they will not vote for their party’s nominee, who has been caught on tape bragging about routinely sexually assaulting women,” he said. “There is no way to defend the indefensible. In the name of decency, Republicans should admit that this deviant – this sociopath – cannot be president.”
Ryan has been compelled to speak out against Trump on several occasions in the past, including when he called for a “complete ban” on Muslim immigration and when he declined to renounce the support of white supremacist leader David Duke in a television interview.
After Trump secured the Republican nomination in March, Ryan delayed throwing his support behind him, seeking further assurances that he would be a “standard bearer that bears our standards.”
Ryan later endorsed Trump, calling him preferable to Hillary Clinton and citing his ability to implement the Republican agenda forged by the House GOP.
The endorsement was sealed after a May closed-door meeting between Trump, Ryan and other House GOP leaders at Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington.
The press was not permitted to photograph the two men together, however. That moment was expected to come Saturday.
Also scheduled to appear at the “FallFest” event are the state’s Republican governor, Scott Walker, and Sen. Ron Johnson, who is seeking reelection this year.