RACINE, Wis. — Donald Trump came under fire yet again for delivering clumsy answers to questions about abortion rights, angering conservatives by asserting on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that abortion should remain legal.
“Right now, the laws are set. And that’s the way the laws are,” the Republican presidential candidate told CBS’s John Dickerson, according to a transcript of the interview released Friday. “At this moment the laws are set. The laws are set. And I think we have to leave it that way.”
The Susan B. Anthony List, a prominent antiabortion organization, blasted Trump and accused the billionaire of repeatedly reversing himself on abortion. “He has completely contradicted himself. If this is his position, he has just disqualified himself as the GOP nominee,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, the group’s president. “At some point, the candidate’s words must stand on their own. What do you believe, Mr. Trump? No one knows.”
Soon after the release of the transcript, the Trump campaign issued a statement clarifying Trump’s remarks.
“Mr. Trump gave an accurate account of the law as it is today and made clear it must stay that way now — until he is president,” the campaign said in a written statement. “Then he will change the law through his judicial appointments and allow the states to protect the unborn. There is nothing new or different here.”
During a campaign event here Saturday, Trump said that his comments on “Face the Nation” were taken out of context, alleging that CBS “took words out that I said.” Trump did not, however, address abortion rights directly while speaking to hundreds of supporters at the Racine Civic Center.
“What I said was perfect. . . . What I said was so good, it was so perfect,” he said. “The only reason I tell you this is because I want you to watch it. Now if I did something wrong, I wouldn’t want you to watch it.”
The real estate mogul blamed the negative response to his remarks on the media, which he said holds him to a “double standard.”
“No matter what you do, no matter what you say . . . they can take something you said and turn it around,” Trump said.
The episode was Trump’s latest reversal on abortion rights, which his critics in the Republican Party have eagerly exploited to discredit him among conservatives.
Last week, antiabortion and abortion-rights groups alike criticized Trump for indicating that he would support “some form of punishment” for women who sought abortions if the procedure were banned nationwide.
Within hours, Trump recanted that position in several statements, first saying that decisions about punishments should be left to the states and later adding that health-care providers, and not the women themselves, should face criminal punishment.
Although the Trump campaign has moved quickly to mitigate the fallout of those remarks, the stumbles have given his rivals a path to question his grasp of conservative ideas. Many, including his chief rival for the GOP nomination, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), used the gaffe to further paint Trump as a false conservative who is fooling voters with talking points.