Local members of Tennessee's congressional delegation did not join top Republican leaders in calling for Donald Trump to drop out of the presidential race Saturday after a video surfaced of him making disturbing, lewd comments about women in 2005.
U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said the comments Trump made about groping women "are obviously very inappropriate and offensive" and he is dismayed at the presidential campaign this year, but he stopped short of rescinding his endorsement of Trump.
Instead he said he is now trying to figure the best way forward in this year's election cycle.
"Like most Americans who are witnessing the most unprecedented presidential campaign of their lifetime with dismay, each of us is trying to determine the most responsible manner in which to conduct ourselves and move our country forward," Corker said in a statement Saturday.
The statement came a day after the Trump campaign said Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, had been named to the candidate's national security advisory council.
Following the release of the tape showing the then 59-year-old Trump expressing his desire to have sex with a married woman in 2005 when his third wife was pregnant with his fifth child, multiple other Republican lawmakers and officials have backed away from their presidential nominee.
A spokesman for Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., also said the congressman would not be withdrawing his endorsement but criticized Trump's statements.
"Mr. Trump's comments were disgusting and I condemn them. He has apologized and I'm glad he did because his comments about women are insulting and unacceptable," Fleischmann said in an email sent by his spokesman, Brian O'Shaughnessy.
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. and U.S. Reps. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., and Tom Graves, R-Ga., could not be reached for comment and had released no public statements as of Saturday night.
It is unclear how many endorsements Trump will lose as a result of this most recent scandal, but a growing list of defectors swelled on Saturday to include big names like Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. and Condoleezza Rice, the former Secretary of State under President George W. Bush.
In a Facebook post, Rice wrote, "Enough! Donald Trump should not be President. He should withdraw. As a Republican, I hope to support someone who has the dignity and stature to run for the highest office in the greatest democracy on Earth."
Trump's running mate, Mike Pence, also expressed dismay at the comments and said they were indefensible.
In the wake of the revealed video, Trump issued a video statement in which he said, "I said it, I was wrong and I apologize."
On Saturday morning he tweeted, "Certainly has been an interesting 24 hours!"
He followed that with another tweet that afternoon rejecting calls to drop out of the race and wrote, "The media and establishment want me out of the race so badly — I WILL NEVER DROP OUT OF THE RACE, WILL NEVER LET MY SUPPORTERS DOWN!"
Contact staff writer Emmett Gienapp at email@example.com or 423-757-6731.
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