BY CHRIS JOHNSON
After months of stoking fears about sexual assault in the bathrooms as a result of transgender non-discrimination protections, social conservatives are sticking with Donald Trump despite a recent unearthed recording in which he brags about making aggressive sexual advances on women.
The fears over assault and violation of privacy in the bathroom were invented and stoked by conservative activists opposed to transgender protections, but actual claims of sexual assault from the Republican nominee aren’t enough to register the same level of concern with these anti-LGBT activists.
Tony Perkins, president of the anti-LGBT Family Research Council, conceded in a statement he finds the behavior exhibited in the video “deeply offensive and degrading,” but nonetheless still supports Trump.
“As I have made clear, my support for Donald Trump in the general election was never based upon shared values; rather it was built upon shared concerns,” Perkins said. “These concerns include the damage the Supreme Court would continue to do to this country through the appointment of activist justices, concerns over the security of our nation because of our government’s refusal to confront the growing threat of Islamic terrorism, and concerns over the prospects of continued attacks by our own government upon religious freedom.”
Perkins added the situation is far from ideal, but “the reality in which we find ourselves” at this point in the political process as a result of “our lack of engagement and involvement as Christians” in the election and government.
Just two months ago, Perkins commended U.S. Judge Reed O’Connor for issuing a court order blocking guidance from the Obama administration barring discrimination against transgender students in accessing the restroom consistent with their gender identity.
At the time, Perkins called the decision “a win for parental rights and the privacy of schoolchildren nationwide,” insisting issues of privacy and safety are of paramount importance.
“I encourage parents in every school district in America to demand that their local school boards not sacrifice the privacy and safety of their children because of this administration’s pursuit of political correctness,” Perkins said. “If the American people do not speak up now on an issue like this, there’s no limit to what President Obama’s administration, or future liberal presidents, will be emboldened to do.”
Ralph Reed, an anti-LGBT activist and chair of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, was even less bothered by the 2005 recording of Trump in a statement to media outlets.
“I’ve listened to the tape, my view is that people of faith are voting on issues like who will protect unborn life, defend religious freedom, create jobs and oppose the Iran nuclear deal,” Reed said. “I think a 10-year-old tape of a private conversation with a TV talk show host ranks pretty low on their hierarchy of concerns.”
But in July, after the National Basketball Association announced it would pull its All-Star Game from North Carolina as a result of the state’s anti-trans law, issues of privacy were front and center for Reed.
“The NBA’s decision to punish the state of North Carolina simply because it protects the privacy of its citizens in bathrooms, locker rooms and shower facilities is an assault on common sense and strong families,” Reed said at the time. “The NBA should focus on basketball, not left-wing and special interest politics. Unless and until the NBA allows men to enter WNBA locker rooms, it should leave bathroom policy to state legislatures.”
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, who signed the anti-LGBT House Bill 2 into law out of purported concerns of safety and privacy, issued a statement condemning the remarks Trump made in the video, but hasn’t said whether he’ll pull support from the nominee.
“I condemn in the strongest possible terms the comments made by Donald Trump regarding women,” McCrory said. “I find them disgusting.”
Social conservatives have been fearmongering over transgender people using the restroom at least since a non-discrimination ordinance was on the ballot last year in Houston. At the time, opponents aired TV ads in which a man follows a young girl into a public restroom stall and slams the door behind him before the video ends. The ordinance ended up being defeated at the ballot.
The image in that video isn’t far from the actions Trump boasts about in the 2005 video made public Oct. 7 by the Washington Post. Trump talks about hitting on a married woman and being able to grab women — sometimes by their genitals — to kiss them, saying they allow him to do that without reprisal because he’s famous. At the time the video was made, Trump was recently married to current wife, Melania Trump.
“You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them,” Trump says. “It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”
Although social conservatives are sticking with Trump, the inflammatory video has shaken up the race. A number of high-profile Republicans — including Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz.; Deb Fischer, R-Neb.; Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska; and Mike Lee, R-Utah — say they no longer support the candidate and that the time has come for him to step aside. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., said she plans to vote for Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence instead of Trump.
Trump has issued a video apologizing for the remarks, but insists the behavior of former President Bill Clinton was worse and has vowed to remain in his position as Republican presidential nominee.
Rea Carey, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund, condemned the remarks and called for “all elected officials and politicians, regardless of their party political affiliation, to unequivocally condemn Donald Trump’s blatant sexism and misogyny.”
“This verbal sexual assault by Donald Trump on women is truly horrifying — and so revealing about his mindset,” Carey said. “We’ve seen for months how his hate-filled rhetoric has contributed to violent attacks against people of color. We’ve watched him disparage Mexicans, vilify Muslims, dehumanize people with disabilities, perpetuate negative stereotypes of LGBTQ people, and exploit people’s fears and anxiety, all the while encouraging physical violence against anyone who challenges his bigotry.”
Not ready to disavow Trump was Chris Barron, the former board chair of the gay conservative group GOProud and founder of LGBT for Trump, who said he continues to “support Trump 100 percent.”
Gregory Angelo, president of Log Cabin Republicans, which continues to mull over whether to endorse Trump, said he won’t have “any update until the LCR Board re-convenes.”