Tennessee Republicans scold, still stand by Trump after vulgar comments

NASHVILLE, TENN. - Tennessee Republicans have condemned vulgar comments made by Donald Trump about women that were revealed in a 2005 recording, but at this time no major GOP officeholder in the Volunteer State has publicly pulled support from the Republican presidential nominee.

“These comments are obviously very inappropriate and offensive and his apology was absolutely necessary,” said U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, who on Friday was named to Trump’s national security advisory council.

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, never an ardent Trump backer but someone who has said he would support this year’s Republican standard-bearer, has not responded to Trump’s comments, nor has he issued a statement. A spokeswoman for Alexander said he is traveling overseas.

As of Saturday morning, Reps. Diane Black and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee remain silent on Trump’s comments as well. A spokeswoman for Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, who hasn't said who he will vote for in the presidential race, did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Brent Leatherwood, executive director of the Tennessee Republican Party, said party chairman Ryan Haynes “finds these comments to be absolutely repulsive.”

“There is no excusing them,” Leatherwood said.


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A 2005 recorded video conversation obtained by the Washington Post and reported Friday shows Trump, during a conversation with the then-host of the television show “Access Hollywood,” bragging about using his celebrity status to try to have sex with women and groping women.

Months into his marriage with his wife Melanie, Trump is recorded saying that he had tried to seduce a married woman, saying, “I did try and f---- her. She was married,” He continued that he “moved on her like a b----.” He’s recorded later saying that being a celebrity allows him to “do anything” with women: “Grab them by the p---y. You can do anything.”

Outside of Tennessee, many Republican have sought to distance themselves from Trump following the revelation of the remarks. That includes House Speaker Paul Ryan, who told Trump not to come to a joint appearance slated for Saturday in Wisconsin where the pair had been scheduled to appear.

State Democrats this election cycle have sought to exploit Trump's perceived struggle with women voters to try to make inroads in the Republican-dominated state legislature.

Tennessee Democratic Party chairwoman Mary Mancini on Saturday called on Republicans to pull their support of Trump.

“It’s time for the Republicans in Tennessee to take back their endorsements of Donald Trump," Mancini said. "Tennesseans deserve to know if state Republicans stand with a man whose bad character is so clearly on display and who believes that women are his to do with as he pleases."

District 20 State Sen. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville, who is a tough re-election fight against Democrat challenger Erin Coleman, released a statement that rebuked Trump’s comments.

“The comments made by Mr. Trump are unacceptable,” Dickerson wrote in a post on his campaign Facebook page. “This sentiment is wrong and disgusting. My record is clear when it comes to supporting women and valuing decency and is in clear opposition to the type of language and behavior revealed today."

Neither Dickerson nor a spokesman for Dickerson responded to messages left by the Tennessean seeking comment on whether the senator plans to vote for Trump. Coleman has repeatedly sought to challenge Dickerson for his stance on Trump during the senate campaign.

Trump issued an apology via online video late Friday night in which he says, “I never said I’m a perfect person, nor pretended to be someone I’m not.

“I’ve said and done things I regret,” Trump says in the video. “And the words released today on this more-than-a-decade-old video are one of them. Anyone who knows me knows these words don’t reflect who I am. I said it. I was wrong. And I apologize.”

Following Trump’s remarks, District 53 state House Rep. Jason Powell, D-Nashville, posted a photo on Twitter that shows his Republican campaign opponent, Davette Blalock, a Metro councilwoman, photographed with Trump.

“Davette Blalock endorsed Donald Trump & ran for Trump delegate,” Powell wrote. “She should now announce she can't vote Trump & renounce Trump campaign.

Reached by the Tennessean Saturday morning, Blalock said she only heard about Trump’s remarks late Friday and wasn’t sure exactly what he said. Blalock said she would make a statement after reading up on his comments.

In Williamson County, Democrat Courtenay Rogers, who is challenging House District 63 state Rep. Glen Casada, R-Franklin, tweeted: "You know what I'm doing about Trump's misogyny & disrespect towards women? I'm running against @GlenCasada, who openly supports him."

A spokesman for Casada, who is chairman of the House Republican Caucus, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Leatherwood, of the state Republican Party, downplayed the role Trump’s comments would have on down-ballot races.

“We make sure our candidates run their own races and focus on the issues that are priorities in their communities,” he said “That's the key to not getting caught up with external matters beyond your control: Make sure your voters know you and that you're ready to solve the problems they are facing.”

Reach Joey Garrison at 615-259-8236 and on Twitter @joeygarrison. Reach Dave Boucher at 615-259-8892 and on Twitter @Dave_Boucher1.

The Tennessean


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