White House says 'repugnant' Trump video comments constitute sexual assault

The comments come in the midst of massive fallout for the Trump campaign after the release of video that captured him making lewd comments about groping women in 2005

Feliks Garcia
New York
Tuesday 11 October 2016 19:43 BST
Yuri Gripas/Getty
Yuri Gripas/Getty

White House spokesperson Josh Earnest said that there is wide agreement that Donald Trump's remarks in the 2005 leaked recordings described sexual assault.

Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One, Mr Earnest added that President Barack Obama considered the remarks describing Mr Trump groping and kissing women are "repugnant".

"There has been a pretty clear statement by people all along the ideological spectrum that those statements consisted sexual assault," Mr Earnest said. "That's why many people I believe have concluded that those statements are worthy of sharp condemnation."

Videos surfaced late last week that captured Mr Trump speaking to then-Access Hollywood host Billy Bush about making unsolicited advances on women.

"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," Mr Trump can be heard saying in one portion of the video. "And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything… Grab ’em by the p***y."

Amid the outcry, Mr Trump issued a public apology for the remarks – which he has repeatedly dismissed as "locker room talk".

Donald Trump caught on tape talking about sexually assaulting women: "Grab 'em by the pussy"

"I've never said I'm a perfect person, nor pretended to be someone that I'm not. I've said and done things I regret, and the words released today on this more-than-a-decade-old video are one of them," he said in the video statement released via Twitter at 12.30 Saturday morning. "Anyone who knows me knows these words don't reflect who I am. I said it, I was wrong, and I apologise."

The unearthed audio and later video confirmation sparked a massive exodus of Republicans, who distanced themselves from the controversial candidate.

House Speaker Paul Ryan immediately rebuked Mr Trump for the remarks and disinvited him from a Wisconsin GOP campaign event. Vice presidential candidate Mike Pence issued a statement that said he was "offended", but later staunchly defended the Republican nominee.

Mr Ryan launched a veritable war between Mr Trump and the Republican Party during a Monday conference call with GOP Congressmembers. He said that he would no longer campaign for nor defend Mr Trump, and instead wanted to focus his efforts on keeping the GOP-led Congress intact.

“You all need to do what’s best for you in your district,” he told members of Congress on the call.

Mr Trump fired back, calling Mr Ryan a "weak" and "inneffective" leader, calling into question the loyalty of Republicans in power.

"It is so nice that the shackles have been taken off me and I can now fight for America the way I want to," he tweeted Tuesday morning.

Mr Earnest said that he was not surprised that Mr Trump had sent the Republican Party into disarray. Explaining that they prioritised oppoisiton to Mr Obama over facts, Mr earnest said: "You reap what you sow."

The Obama Administration has made considerable effort to pass legislation to expand rights of sexual assault survivors in the US. On Friday, Mr Obama signed into law the Sexual Assault Survivor's Bill of Rights – legislation that guarantees specific rights to people who have survived sexual assault.

In particular, the law focuses on preserving rape kits so victims do not have to worry about a statute of limitation should they decide to prosecute at a later date.

"Sexual assault remains one of the most underreported crimes," said New Hampshire Sen Jeanne Shaheen, who helped introduce the bill, "and I hope that these basic rights will encourage more survivors to come forward and pursue justice."

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