Elections

Ryan cancels joint appearance with Trump over video boast about groping women

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump pauses during a meeting with members of the National Border Patrol Council at Trump Tower, Friday, Oct. 7, 2016, in New York.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump pauses during a meeting with members of the National Border Patrol Council at Trump Tower, Friday, Oct. 7, 2016, in New York. AP

Could this be it?

Donald Trump has insulted a war hero, criticized the family of a fallen soldier, mocked a disabled reporter and remained in the game. But the appearance Friday of a video in which he brags crudely about making sexual advances to a married woman is raising questions once again: Has Donald Trump gone too far? And could this be the one that sinks his presidential bid?

It brought an immediate condemnation from House speaker Paul Ryan, who sent out a terse email hours after the video was made public, disinviting Trump from a rally the two were to hold Saturday in Wisconsin.

“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 the meantime, he is no longer attending tomorrow’s event in Wisconsin.”

Still, some analysts questioned how seriously the Republican presidential nominee’s campaign would be hindered, given his already well-documented history of making remarks critical of women.

“The point is, it doesn’t change anybody’s pre-existing opinion of him,” said Katie Packer, a Republican strategist and longtime Trump opponent who served as deputy campaign manager for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential run.

“Though hearing it in such a graphic way,” she added, “It’s startling.”

Packer predicted the release of the video could be the first of more embarrassing Trump moments to come: “I do think this is the beginning of a month long opposition dump,” she said. “There are probably a lot of hot mic moments.”

Many Republicans were silent as the tape was played on TV. But the video earned Trump one of the harshest rebukes yet from Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus, who said in a terse statement: “No woman should ever be described in these terms or talked about in this manner. Ever.”

Priebus had been scheduled to appear Saturday in Wisconsin with Ryan and Trump until Ryan’s announcement that Trump was no longer invited.

In a statement, Trump tried to tie his absence from the Wisconsin rally to preparation for Sunday night’s debate, though it was difficult to his match version of events with the harsh words of both Ryan and Priebus.

“Governor Mike Pence will be representing me tomorrow in Wisconsin,” Trump’s statement said. “I will be spending the day in New York in debate prep with RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Jeff Sessions, and then flying to St. Louis on Sunday for the 2nd Presidential Debate.”

Democrats immediately began to use the video in fundraising emails and attempts to tie vulnerable Senate Republicans to Trump. It also overshadowed the WikiLeaks release of emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Obama administration’s declaration that Russia was behind the computer hack of the Democratic National Committee that produce those emails.

The Washington Post first published the video from 2005, featuring Trump boasting to TV personality Billy Bush, a host of NBC’s Today show, about a woman that he had “moved on,” but “failed.”

“I did try and f**k her,” he said on the tape. “She was married.”

“I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there,” he said. “Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything.”

Later in the conversation he bragged that he automatically began kissing beautiful women and didn’t hesitate to grope them.

“I don't even wait. And when you're a star they let you do it. You can do anything. . . . Grab them by the p**sy. You can do anything,” he said.

Trump said Friday that he was sorry if his language had offended anyone, calling it “locker room banter, a private conversation” that took place years ago. Trump would have been about 60 at the time.

“Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course – not even close,” he said in a statement released by his campaign. “I apologize if anyone was offended.”

The tape could prove lethal to Trump’s attempt to court women voters, who already prefer Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton by a two to one margin. Trump has employed his daughter, Ivanka, on the campaign trail and embraced family-friendly policies like child care and paid leave.

“This is not more graphic than his radio conversations with Howard Stern, but it’s more recently revealed and therefore likely to have greater impact,” said Republican consultant Whit Ayres. “A great many people are just now paying attention.”

Trump’s supporters have shaken off other controversial statements, but Ayres said the challenge for Trump is moving beyond his base. “He’s not winning right now, therefore just energizing your own supporters isn’t sufficient,” Ayres said. “This is the kind of thing that can make that challenging.”

Republicans in tough re-election bids were looking to distance themselves.

“The comments are inappropriate and completely unacceptable,” North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr said in a statement to McClatchy.

New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a vulnerable Republican incumbent who has struggled with Trump’s candidacy, said Friday his comments were “totally inappropriate and offensive.”

Her opponent, Maggie Hassan, called that response inadequate, demanding that Ayotte disavow Trump.

Trump’s former campaign manager told CNN that the remarks were not “defensible,” but noted it was a private conversation.

“We're electing a leader for the free world, not a Sunday schoolteacher,” Corey Lewandowksi said.

Greg Gordon in Washington contributed to this story.

Lesley Clark: 202-383-6054, @lesleyclark

William Douglas: 202-383-6026, @williamgdouglas

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