Comstock, Goodlatte denounce Trump

Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump’s explosive taped comments about mistreatment of women continued to rock state Republicans on Monday with Trump’s Virginia campaign chairman fired for joining a protest outside Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The firing of Corey Stewart came after he and other Trump supporters recently clashed with other Republicans over Trump bragging in 2005 about his unwanted kissing, groping and attempts to have sex with women.

Some Republican members of Congress and dozens of other officials who had been supporting Trump or circling warily around his candidacy bolted on him as Sunday’s presidential debate loomed. Others condemned Trump while clinging to their endorsements of him.

U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-McLean, locked in a competitive race with Democrat LuAnn Bennett in the 10th District, said Friday night, after months of silence on the subject, that she could not vote for Trump “in good conscience” nor would she ever vote for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

“This is disgusting, vile and disqualifying,” Comstock said of Trump’s actions. “No woman should ever be subjected to this type of obscene behavior, and it is unbecoming of anybody seeking high office. In light of these comments, Donald Trump should step aside and allow our party to replace him with Mike Pence or another appropriate nominee from the Republican Party.”

Goodlatte also condemned Trump’s behavior, but stopped short of withdrawing his support or calling for him to quit the race. He also blamed the national media for treating the presidential campaign like a circus.

“Mr. Trump’s comments are reprehensible and rightly deserve to be condemned,” Goodlatte said in a written statement issued Monday. “All women deserve to be treated with respect, and his inappropriate comments are very disappointing to me. That said, I cannot support a Clinton presidency and the disastrous policies that would be enacted as a result.

“I will not be drawn into the circus that the national media is making of this presidential race. I’m running for Congress with a consistent, conservative message, which the voters in the 6th District and I share.”

The reactions of Goodlatte and Comstock angered Stewart, who lashed out in an interview Monday as he prepared to join the protest at the Republican National Committee. Stewart suggested Goodlatte and Comstock could face primary challenges in the 2018 elections as a result of their stances on Trump.

Stewart is chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors and a candidate for the Republican nomination for governor in 2017.

“I think they’re typical establishment Republicans who were never behind Trump in the first place,” Stewart said of Goodlatte and Comstock. “They have betrayed the grassroots who have nominated Trump, and we’re going to remember that in two years when they’re up for nomination.”

In a Facebook post, Stewart boasted of “tons of interviews today on behalf of Mr. Trump.

“Then, I went to start a rebellion against GOP establishment pukes who betrayed Trump.”

Before the afternoon ended, Trump’s national campaign had fired Stewart and replaced him with conservative radio talk show host John Frederick as head of Trump’s Virginia campaign.

Frederick said Stewart had ignored a warning not to participate in the protest by a group called “Virginia Women for Trump,” a warning explained later by John Whitlock, chairman of the state’s Republican Party.

“The Republican Party of Virginia, the Republican National Committee and the Trump campaign are part of one team,” Whitlock said in a written statement. “While this turn of events is disappointing, I support the Trump campaign’s decision to remove their Virginia chairman. With less than a month until Election Day, we can’t afford any distractions.”

Democrats also weighed in on the GOP discord over Trump.

Kai Degner, a city council member from Harrisonburg, dismissed Goodlatte’s criticism of Trump as timid political expediency rubber stamped by House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

“As usual, Bob Goodlatte follows his party’s establishment leaders before giving a response – even regarding sexual assault against women,” Degner wrote in a Facebook posting. “I wish we had a congressman who would lead on standing up for women, not wait for permission from Paul Ryan.”

Bennett, who has been pressuring Comstock throughout the campaign to take a stand on Trump, said her opponent’s long-awaited announcement was too little, too late.

“Donald Trump has demeaned women since before he ran for public office, and the Republican Party, with few exceptions (has) stood with him and enabled him every step of the way,” Bennett stated in an online posting.

“My opponent is, sadly, no exception,” Bennett added. “She has stayed silent through Trump’s insulting of immigrant families, military families and women. Donald Trump is sickening. Barbara Comstock says that she’s been watching and her silence is unacceptable from a sitting congresswoman.”

The Democratic Party of Virginia issued the following statement Monday by Chairwoman Susan Swecker on the GOP’s intraparty strife: “The Republican Party is imploding nationally and Corey Stewart is leading the destruction here in Virginia. This didn’t happen overnight – Trump’s rise is a result of the Republican Party’s strategy of appealing to people’s fears. Donald Trump is a disgrace and those who stand by him and defend him will be paying the price for years to come, not just with women, but within their own party.”

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com.