Prominent Republicans issued blistering responses to newly disclosed 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."
"No woman should ever be described in these terms or talked about in this manner. Ever," Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus said in an extraordinary response about the party's presidential nominee just more than a month ahead of the November 8 election.
The recording, which was picked up by a hot mic, came from an interaction between Trump and television personality Billy Bush and featured the pair using extraordinarily vulgar language to describe women.
Priebus' comments were echoed by a number of top GOP leaders — those in the party's congressional leadership, the party's former presidential nominees, and Trump's former primary rivals among them. At least two elected Republican officials called on Trump to drop out of the race.
"Hitting on married women? Condoning assault? Such vile degradations demean our wives and daughters and corrupt America's face to the world," 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney wrote on Twitter.
House Speaker Paul Ryan said he was "sickened" by Trump's comments and disinvited him from a planned joint event Saturday in Wisconsin with Priebus and Sen. Ron Johnson. Trump said he would send his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, to the event in his place while he prepares for Sunday's presidential debate in New York with Priebus and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
"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," Ryan said.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell echoed Ryan, calling Trump's comments "repugnant, and unacceptable in any circumstance."
Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, a frequent critic of the billionaire along the campaign trail, posted to Twitter that "America deserves far better than" Trump. Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, locked in a tough primary against Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan, called the comments "totally inappropriate and offensive." Sen. John McCain of Arizona, another in a re-election battle, called the comments "offensive" and "demeaning" and Trump alone should "suffer the consequences" of the comments.
And Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois, also in a tight re-election race, called Trump a "malignant clown" on Twitter and said he was "unfit to be president." He said Trump should drop out of the race, becoming the most prominent elected GOP official to urge Trump to do so. Rep. Mike Coffman, a Republican from Colorado, joined Kirk later in the night, as did other influential Republican officials.
The dominoes kept coming.
Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, two of Trump's primary rivals, also issued stinging rebuttals to the current nominee.
"As the grandfather of two precious girls, I find that no apology can excuse away Donald Trump's reprehensible comments degrading women," Bush wrote on Twitter.
Sen. Marco Rubio said the comments were "impossible to justify." Sen. Ted Cruz, yet another former primary rival, said there was "simply no excuse for them."
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 apologize 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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