Top Texas Republicans Condemn Trump's Lewd Comments
"These comments are disturbing and inappropriate, there is simply no excuse for them," tweeted U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who recently endorsed Trump after a months-long holdout. "Every wife, mother, daughter — every person — deserves to be treated with dignity and respect."
Hours earlier, a clip from 2005 surfaced that showed Trump boasting about touching, kissing and trying to have sex with women, including married women. In a statement, Trump called the comments "locker room banter" and said he was sorry "if anyone was offended."
The remarks touched off an uproar in the Republican Party, with several members of Congress withdrawing their endorsements of Trump and some calling for him to step aside. In Texas, Republicans offered forceful criticism of the comments but did little to suggest their overall support for Trump has wavered.
That was true except for U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, who is fighting for re-election in the only competitive congressional race this November in Texas. Hurd, a San Antonio Republican, had never endorsed Trump, but he was planning to call Saturday evening for the nominee to drop out of the presidential race, according to Hurd's campaign manager, Justin Hollis.
On Friday night, Hurd had issued a statement calling Trump's comments "utterly sickening and repulsive for all women and Americans." He was not the only Texas Republican condemning the remarks.
"There is absolutely no excuse to ever talk about women in such a crude and demeaning way," Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Trump's Texas chairman, said in a statement earlier Friday that was critical of the comments, but also sought to scrutinize Trump's Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.
A spokesman for Patrick confirmed Saturday the lieutenant governor is still serving as the chairman of Trump's efforts in Texas. The GOP nominee is due in the state Tuesday for fundraisers in Dallas and San Antonio.
"As the father of five children, including four daughters, I find Donald Trump's comments reprehensible and unacceptable," said a statement from U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul of Austin, who has been advising Trump on national security — and took a formal role with the campaign hours before Trump's comments surfaced. "This is not an example we should set for our children or an image we should project of our country."
"I am disgusted by Mr Trump's words about women: our daughters, sisters and mothers," said U.S. Sen. John Cornyn in back-to-back tweets. "And I am profoundly disappointed by the race to the bottom this presidential campaign has become."
The rebuke from Hurd was among the more remarkable GOP responses to Trump's comments. Hurd had previously not volunteered any comments on Trump throughout the race, other than to say from the outset that he could not support the nominee.
"I find Donald Trump's comments that were released today to be utterly sickening and repulsive for all women and Americans," Hurd said in the Friday night statement. "As a proud son of a wonderful mother, the brother of a strong and successful sister, the uncle to four beautiful nieces, I am ashamed that any person much less a nominee for President of the United States would speak that way of women. We deserve better."
Hurd's decision to ask Trump to leave the race was first reported by the El Paso Times.
Democrats fired back that Hurd's denunciation was not enough because he has not ruled out voting for Trump. Hurd's Democratic challenger, Pete Gallego, issued a statement saying Hurd's "continuing inability to disavow Mr. Trump's candidacy should disqualify him from being our congressman."
Some GOP criticism of Trump's comments was not unqualified.
Trump, Patrick said in his statement, "was certainly right to apologize." But he said Trump's unearthed remarks should not "distract voters from the frightening policies" pushed by Clinton, whose campaign was the subject of an email leak at about the same time Friday.
Published by the website WikiLeaks, the emails appear to show excerpts from paid speeches Clinton gave before running for president, including one in which she expresses support for "open trade" and "open borders." Such policies, Patrick said, "would spell ruin for the future of our country."
Among Republican elected officials in Texas, Patrick has been Trump's most vocal backer. In the primaries, Patrick supported Cruz, who last month finally endorsed Trump, his former bitter rival.
Other Texas Republicans did not have immediate reactions to Trump's remarks. Gov. Greg Abbott's office did not respond to requests for comment.
But Texas Democrats pounced on the controversy, with the state party issuing a message to GOP leaders who have not yet fully disavowed Trump: "Now is the time for you to be a man."
Trump's remarks came up repeatedly at a Clinton campaign event Saturday in Austin, where EMILY's List President Stephanie Schriock rallied female supporters with a month until Election Day.
"The stakes were pretty high to begin with, and then we just had the last 24 hours," said Schriock, whose groups works to get Democratic women elected across the country. "I have no words. ... I feel like our language is no longer sufficient to describe how awful and disgusting and crude and rude his statements and clearly his thinking is."
Among the first Texas Democrats to denounce Trump's comments was former Democratic gubernatorial nominee Wendy Davis, who said his "exploitation of women knows no bounds."
"Just when you think he has reached the ultimate low, he finds a new basement," Davis said in a statement to The Texas Tribune. "I wouldn't want Donald Trump in the same room with my daughters and granddaughter, much less be their President of the United States."
"Donald Trump's exploitation of women knows no bounds," former Democratic gubernatorial nominee Wendy Davis said in a statement to The Texas Tribune. "Just when you think he has reached the ultimate low, he finds a new basement. I wouldn't want Donald Trump in the same room with my daughters and granddaughter, much less be their President of the United States."
Gallego initially weighed in by using Trump's remarks to remind voters of Hurd's relative silence on Trump. After Hurd issued his statement condemning Trump's comments, Gallego sought to portray it as a political calculation.
"The 23rd District deserves a Congressman who can make up his mind. One who understands right from wrong and has the political courage to call it out," Gallego said in a statement. "One who earns our trust and respect by taking action - not by sitting on the fence and waiting until the chickens come home to roost."
There were also signs the controversy was permeating the few competitive legislative races this November in Texas. A number of Democratic challengers issued statements pressing GOP incumbents — including Reps. Rodney Anderson of Grand Prairie and Kenneth Sheets of Dallas — to fully disavow Trump.