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Donald Trump faces an exodus of support from top Utah Republicans after the disclosure of a damning video showing him bragging about groping and kissing women in a way some believe would constitute sexual assault.
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and Rep. Jason Chaffetz said they can no longer vote for Trump, while former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, Sen. Mike Lee and Rep. Chris Stewart said the Republican presidential nominee should drop out of the race.
The video, first reported by The Washington Post, is a bombshell in this highly unusual contest and it comes just two days before the second presidential debate. Among the offensive things Trump says in the three-minute video is that he tries to sleep with married women and that he is forceful with a woman he finds attractive.
"I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet. Just kiss. I don't even wait," he says. "And when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything."
"Grab them by the p-sy," he says. "You can do anything."
Chaffetz said in an interview: "I'm out. I'm pulling my endorsement.
"I can not support in any way, shape or form the comments or approach Donald Trump has taken. This is so over the top, it is not even acceptable in locker rooms. It shouldn't be acceptable anywhere. We are talking about the president of the United States. I want someone of high moral values."
Like Herbert, Chaffetz said he won't vote for Clinton and like Huntsman, he would prefer that Mike Pence, the Republican vice presidential pick, was at the top of the ticket.
"In a campaign cycle that has been nothing but a race to the bottom at such a critical moment for our nation and with so many who have tried to be respectful of a record primary vote, the time has come for Governor Pence to lead the ticket," Huntsman told The Salt Lake Tribune, not specifically ruling out a vote for Trump.
This is still a reversal for Huntsman, who just one week ago explained why he was voting for Trump, despite "fundamental philosophical differences" between the two men. He said that he saw the billionaire celebrity as the best chance to update the tax code and reform the campaign-finance system.
Lee, who has refused to endorse Trump but hadn't ruled out voting for him, released a video on Facebook late Friday calling on the nominee to step aside. At times, he spoke directly to Trump saying "You, sir, are the distraction" and then he turned his attention to Republicans at large. "Let's find a candidate who can carry that banner without distraction and without settling."
Mitt Romney, the 2012 presidential candidates who in March announced he wouldn't vote for Trump, responded to the video on Twitter:
Hitting on married women? Condoning assault? Such vile degradations demean our wives and daughters and corrupt America's face to the world.
Hitting on married women? Condoning assault? Such vile degradations demean our wives and daughters and corrupt America's face to the world.— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) October 8, 2016
Utah's other Republican leaders responded more tepidly, if at all.
Rep. Mia Love has called Trump "subpar" but hasn't ruled out voting for him. Her only comment Friday was that the video was "disappointing and disgusting."
Sen. Orrin Hatch called Trump's comments "offensive and disgusting."
"There is no excuse for such degrading behavior," he said. "All women deserve to be treated with respect."
Rep. Rob Bishop, a Trump supporter, did not respond to a request for comment.
House Speaker Greg Hughes, the nominee's most vocal supporter in the state, said after seeing the video: "The emotions I'm feeling this evening range from shock and bewilderment to anger and disgust. To say I am disappointed would be a gross understatement."
He called for a "sincere apology and an accounting for these statements."
Trump initially downplayed the comments as "locker room banter." Late Friday, he released a short video apology calling the unaired "Access Hollywood" footage "a decade-old video" and "a distraction" from real issues, though he also acknowledged he "said some foolish things."
"Anyone who knows me knows these words don't reflect who I am. I said it. I was wrong and I apologize," Trump said. "I pledge to be a better man tomorrow and I will never, ever let you down."
The lewd video released earlier Friday shows Trump talking to then-"Access Hollywood's" Billy Bush as they arrive on the set of "Days of Our Lives" in 2005, where Trump was about to film a cameo.
"I moved on her like a b, but I couldn't get there. And she was married," Trump says. "Then all of a sudden I see her, she's now got the big phony tits and everything. She's totally changed her look."
Trump and Bush appear to spot Arianne Zucker, an actress waiting to escort them to the set.
"Woah," Trump says. "I've got to use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her. 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."
Another person, most likely Bush, says: "Whatever you want."
And Trump responds: "Grab them by the p-y. You can do anything."
Kortney Hughes, a victim services coordinator for the Provo Police Department, said what Trump describes "definitely amounts to sexual assault."
"It would be offensive for anyone to say, let alone a presidential candidate," she added.
Trump is unpopular in Utah, but had the lead in the last Salt Lake Tribune-Hinckley Institute poll, conducted in mid-September. That survey showed him with 34 percent to 25 percent for Clinton, with the rest split among third-party candidates and those who intend to write in a name. That well could change in the final weeks of the race.
House Speaker Paul Ryan said he was "sickened" by the video and canceled a joint appearance with Trump in Wisconsin slated for Saturday, but didn't pull his endorsement. Neither did Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Instead, he urged Trump to "take full responsibility for the utter lack of respect for women shown in his comments on that tape." Many Republican politicians across the country denounced him and Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo,, went from not voting for Trump to calling on him to step aside. Still, it appears the vulgar comments led to a sharper response in Utah than the rest of the nation, at least initially.
Spencer Zwick, the main fundraiser for Ryan and formerly for Romney, told Bloomberg Politics that "major GOP donors are pulling support for Donald Trump and are now looking to fund an effort to back someone else as the Republican nominee."
Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman is the brother of Tribune owner and publisher Paul Huntsman.