U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-2nd, declared Donald Trump “unfit” and said he will write in Indiana Gov. Mike Pence for president after an 11-year-old recording surfaced in which the Republican nominee spoke about groping women.
In a statement Saturday, LoBiondo, a Republican, said he will “not vote for a candidate who boasts of sexual assault.”
“I cannot support and will not vote for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton to be president of the United States. I will write in Gov. Mike Pence for president,” LoBiondo said.
LoBiondo, who is running for re-election against Democrat Dave Cole, joined a chorus of Republicans who condemned remarks the GOP nominee made in a 2005 recording.
Trump bragged about kissing, groping and trying to have sex with women who were not his wife on recordings obtained by The Washington Post and NBC News. The celebrity businessman boasted “when you’re a star, they let you do it,” in a conversation with Billy Bush, then a host of the television show “Access Hollywood.”
The remarks were captured by a live microphone that Trump did not appear to know was recording their conversation as he was waiting to make a cameo appearance on a soap opera.
In a statement released by his campaign, Trump said: “This was locker room banter, a private conversation that took place many years ago. Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course — not even close. I apologize if anyone was offended.”
Earlier in the day, LoBiondo wrote on Facebook that Trump’s comments were “reprehensible” to him as the father of two daughters.
LoBiondo’s district covers a large swath of South Jersey, including all of Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland and Salem counties, and parts of Ocean, Burlington and Gloucester counties.
Cole, an engineer, businessman and former member of President Barack Obama’s White House, called Trump a “serial misogynist” and referred to the recordings as “disqualifying and criminal.”
“Any public official who maintains his unconditional endorsement of Donald Trump in the wake of these heinous statements forfeits the right to claim ‘people before party,’” Cole said in a statement before LoBiondo announced he would not vote for Trump.
Cole later wrote in a statement, “Donald Trump is hurting the Republican Party’s chances to win, so LoBiondo would like us to believe he’s had a change of heart about Trump. This is far too little too late, and another disappointing example of Trump’s South Jersey representative putting his party’s chances over the people he’s supposed to represent,” after LoBiondo withdrew his support of Trump.
As his fellow Republicans were speaking out on the issue, Gov. Chris Christie didn’t respond to reporters as he entered Trump Tower in Manhattan on Saturday afternoon, wearing a New York Mets hoodie. Trump had issued a statement that said Christie would be helping him prepare for Sunday night’s presidential debate.
Christie has been a top adviser to Trump since he ended his own bid for the GOP nomination and now heads Trump’s White House transition team. He has not commented publicly on the vulgar and sexually charged comments, and the governor’s spokesman did not respond Saturday to a message seeking comment.
Trump’s 2005 remarks were recorded months after he married his third wife, Melania. He is heard bemoaning that he tried and failed to seduce an unidentified woman, saying, “I moved on her and I failed, I’ll admit.”
“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,” Trump said. “And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything.”
Former Atlantic County prosecutor and freeholder Colin Bell said an investigation should be launched into Trump as a result of the remarks.
“What Donald Trump described doing to women is not just disgusting, it is also a crime, and there is no statute of limitations on sexual assault in New Jersey,” Bell said, “Not only should local Republicans denounce his criminal behavior, but law enforcement should immediately begin an investigation to determine if he committed any of these depraved acts at his Atlantic City casinos and if there is sufficient evidence to warrant criminal charges.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact: 609-272-7411 JTomczuk@pressofac.com Twitter @ACPressTomczuk