ST. GEORGE – The Utah Republican Party reaffirmed its support of presidential candidate Donald Trump in a statement released Monday afternoon.
Party chair James Evans said in the statement that the comments Trump made about women were “unacceptable,” yet he went on the say that the candidate has apologized and “is a better person now.”
“While much has been made of his unacceptable comments recorded on tape eleven years ago, the choice before the American people on who will lead this county is between an agent of charge, Donald Trump, or more of the same, Hillary Clinton,” Evans said. “Make no mistake, Donald Trump is an insurgent candidate who has rattled the political establishment to its core; and as such, they are fighting back with all they have.”
Trump’s recorded words, which were released in a video Friday, have caused many state and national-level Republicans to condemn them, as well as call for him to step down as the candidate.
The recording in question is what Trump has referred to as “locker-room banter,” in which he brags about kissing, groping and trying to sleep with women, and other comments that have been labeled as sexual assault by media commentators and detractors both within and outside of the GOP.
In the wake of the comments Friday, Republicans Gov. Gary Herbert and Rep. Jason Chaffetz withdrew their support of Trump. Rep. Mia Love has also stated she will not vote for Trump due to the recording, while Sen. Mike Lee has called for him to step down.
Lee said Trump and his backers can cement a lasting legacy if he were to step aside, allowing Republicans to find a candidate who can bring together all elements within the party and defeat Clinton.
Lee told NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday that “we’ve got candidates who can do it. There’s still time to do it, but we have to actually do it.”
Others, such as Sen. Orrin Hatch, Rep. Rob Bishop and Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, have also condemned the words said 11 years ago between Trump and a host of the program “Access Hollywood,” but they did not withdraw overall support of the candidate.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints declined to weigh in on the issue, but the church-owned Deseret News newspaper published a scathing editorial Saturday calling for Trump to step aside.
“What oozes from this audio is evil,” the paper wrote. “Nor is this an isolated incident. His reprehensible sexual speech confirms troubling reports and outrageous outbursts that have dogged his campaign from the beginning.”
“Donald Trump has apologized for his comments of eleven years ago when he was in the environment of Hollywood and the political left,” Evans said. “He has professed on many occasions he is not proud of his past, and that his heart has changed and he is a better person now.”
The Utah GOP condemns the degradation of women, as well as the comments on the recording, Evens said in the statement.
“However, I accept Mr. Trump’s (apology) and trust he is demonstrating the change in his heart today; and I support him as our Republican nominee.”
Evans goes on to state the party will respect those members who will “vote their conscience” following this incident. As well, he said he trusts that as emotions subside, people will remember the issues at stake this election cycle. These include future Supreme Court nominees, as well as national, financial and security concerns, he said.
“As Chair of the Utah Republican Party, I am confident at the end of the day, Utah will support Donald Trump for president,” Evans said.
The Utah Democratic Party issued the following statement in response to the UTah GOP:
Today’s comments by Utah Republican Party Chairman James Evans show yet again just how out of touch the Utah Republican Party is with the people of Utah. While Utahns, including many Republican elected officials, have spent the last 72 hours disavowing their allegiance to Trump, the Utah Republican Party is still standing by a man who is a racist, a misogynist and far from a reflection of Utah values.
As Utahns in more than 20 counties prepare to receive their ballots in the mail this week, we urge them to learn about the candidates in each contest, from the presidential race to the local races, and to remember which of the two major parties stands with them and their families in this critical election. Faced with an opportunity to go high, the Utah Republican Party chose to go low. Some things are more important than party loyalty, and I feel confident voters will find that Utah Democrats reflect their priorities.
Ed. note: This story was udpated to include the statement from the Utah Democratic Party
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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