A pair of prominent elected Republicans issued sharp responses to leaked audio of Donald Trump published Friday by The Washington Post, in which he said he was able to “grab” women “by the p—y”
because “when you’re a star they let you do it.”
But in the immediate hours following the explosive release, many top Republican leaders stayed silent amid increasing backlash.
“America deserves far better than @realDonaldTrump,” Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona posted to Twitter.
Flake has not endorsed or offered support to Trump, and has been a frequent critic of the billionaire along the campaign trail.
Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, locked in a tough primary against Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan, also called the comments “totally inappropriate and offensive.”
Ayotte had come under recent fire for saying she believed Trump was “absolutely” a role model for children. She later walked back the remark, saying neither Trump or Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton were role models for kids. Ayotte has previously said she is not endorsing Trump, but will be voting for him.
Yet many other Republicans did not offer immediate comment on the remarks. Representatives for House Speaker Paul Ryan, 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, the Republican National Committee, and Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, among others did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s requests for comment.
Ryan, Trump, RNC Chair Reince Priebus, and Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson are scheduled to appear together Saturday at an event in Wisconsin.
The recording, which was picked up by a hot mic, came from an interaction between Trump and television personality Billy Bush. The two were aboard a bus and were arriving on the set of “Days of Our Lives” to tape a segment for Trump’s upcoming cameo on the soap opera.
The video of the incident includes Trump saying a litany of crude remarks.
In a Friday statement from Trump, which came almost immediately after the story was posted, Trump called his commentary “locker room banter.”
“This was locker room banter, a private conversation that took place many years ago,” Trump said. “Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course — not even close. I apologise if anyone was offended.”
The tape began with Trump discussing a failed attempt to seduce a woman. That woman’s name was not mentioned in the tape.
“I moved on her and I failed,” he said. “I’ll admit it.”
According to the Post, the tape was recorded several months after he married his third wife, Melania.
“I did try and f— her,” Trump later said. “She was married. … And I moved on her very heavily. In fact, I took her out furniture shopping. She wanted to get some furniture. I said, ‘I’ll show you where they have some nice furniture.'”
“I moved on her like a b—-, but I couldn’t get there,” he continued. “And she was married. Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony t— and everything. She’s totally changed her look.”
At that point, Trump and Bush noticed the actress, Arianne Zucker, who was waiting to take them onto the set.
“I’ve gotta use some tic tacs, just in case I start kissing her,” Trump said. “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.”
“And when you’re a star they let you do it,” Trump continued. “You can do anything. … Grab them by the p—y. You can do anything.”
The release of the audio comes two days before Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton are scheduled to meet for the second of three debates. Clinton brought up Trump’s history of crude comments about women during their first encounter. Earlier this week, Trump suggested many of those past comments were made “for the purpose of entertainment.”
Watch the tape below:
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