A wide swath of Republican presidential candidates rushed to defend Fox News host Megyn Kelly after real-estate magnate Donald Trump unleashed a storm of criticism against her.
Trump’s most controversial comment about Kelly came Friday night when, during a CNN interview, he criticised how she moderated the GOP primary debate the day before.
“You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her wherever,” Trump recalled of Kelly.
His remarks were interpreted by some conservatives as a sexist against the Fox host, who confronted him during the debate with his history of referring to some women as “fat pigs” and other charged terms.
Trump’s campaign, playing defence, released a fiery statement on Saturday that said only a “deviant” would construe his comment about Kelly in lewd terms.
“Mr. Trump made Megyn Kelly look really bad — she was a mess with her anger and totally caught off guard. Mr. Trump said ‘blood was coming out of her eyes and whatever’ meaning nose, but wanted to move on to more important topics. Only a deviant would think anything else,” his campaign said.
Trump’s defence does not appear to have slowed the backlash, however. The influential conservative website RedState disinvited him from their weekend gathering and a number of GOP rivals weighed in critically.
Here’s what some of the Republican White House hopefuls are saying.
Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina
Mr. Trump: There. Is. No. Excuse.
— Carly Fiorina (@CarlyFiorina) August 8, 2015
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina)
“Due to Donald Trump’s unrelenting and offensive attack on Megyn Kelly and others, we are at a crossroads with Mr. Trump. I applaud Eri[c]k Erickson for doing the right thing when he disinvited Donald Trump from a gathering of Republican activists. As a party, we are better to risk losing without Donald Trump than trying to win with him. Enough already with Mr. Trump,” Graham said in a statement.
“These statements are not worthy of the office he is seeking nor consistent with the leadership we should expect from a Commander-in-Chief in these dangerous times.”
Former New York Gov. George Pataki (R)
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R)
“Megyn Kelly was a colleague of mine for six and a half years when I was at Fox. She is one of the most remarkable people I know. Intellectually unsurpassed as a broadcast journalist, she has great integrity, and so you know I’m going to stand for Megyn Kelly,” Huckabee told CNN.
“I would certainly never say anything about a person like that, and I hope he apologizes because I think that he should.”