U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce says he supports Donald Trump, but he said comments the Republican presidential nominee made about women in 2005 are “horrid.”
The reason he supports Trump? Citing the 2012 attack on two U.S. government buildings in Benghazi, Libya, Pearce said he can’t even consider backing Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
That attack, which occurred while Clinton was secretary of state, resulted in the deaths of J. Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, and three other Americans. Clinton has taken responsibility for the attacks.
Still, Pearce, New Mexico’s only Republican in Congress, denounced Trump’s comments. In the 2005 video, Trump talks about trying unsuccessfully to have sex with a married woman and claims to kiss and grab women “by the pussy” without their consent.
“I think that the comments were horrid. They are indefensible, and I don’t defend them,” Pearce said in an interview with journalists following a Tuesday night debate with his opponent in the Nov. 8 election, Democrat Merrie Lee Soules.
“But I expressed my deep-rooted feelings here tonight that I have about Benghazi and how we left people hanging,” Pearce said. “I think that was very clear in my discussion tonight — why I could never support Mrs. Clinton.”
The comments were Pearce’s first public statement about the 2005 Trump video, which was released Friday and has divided Republicans. Some, including Gov. Susana Martinez, have said they won’t support Trump. Others, including state GOP Chairwoman Debbie Maestas, have reaffirmed their support for Trump.
During the debate, Pearce, who is normally an even-keeled speaker, became visibly agitated when talking about the Benghazi attacks. Asked if he endorsed his party’s presidential nominee, Pearce referenced the attacks in explaining why he supports Trump.
But Pearce wasn’t full of praise for Trump either. He criticized the presidential candidate’s proposal to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and, he’s done in the past, said Trump needs to improve his relationship with Hispanics.
In fact, Pearce said that is why he has refused to endorse Trump even though he supports him. Pearce said he’s trying to get Trump’s attention, and he suggested it’s working. He said Trump is talking less about building a wall these days.
During the debate, Soules criticized Pearce for his statement that he can publicly support Trump without endorsing him.
“Well, how’s that working for you?” she asked. “I say, Congressman Pearce, if the shoe fits wear it.”
Soules also said she is “proud to be on the ticket with Secretary Hillary Clinton.”
After the debate, Soules said the 2005 video shows Trump being “horribly disrespectful of women.” She said she “can’t even wrap my mind around” how Pearce can “continue to support but not endorse” Trump.
About 200 people attended the debate, which was held at The Dream Center in Las Cruces and sponsored by the League of United Latin American Citizens. The crowd was sometimes rowdy, and people at times verbally expressed disapproval of statements made by the candidates — Pearce more often than Soules.
Pearce and Soules sparred on a number of issues including education, health care, immigration, veteran’s issues, taxes, the environment, climate change, and legalizing marijuana for recreational use. They agreed on very little.