Local leaders sound off on tense second presidential debate

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump shakes hands with Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton following the second presidential debate at Washington University in St. Louis, Sunday, Oct. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump shakes hands with Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton following the second presidential debate at Washington University in St. Louis, Sunday, Oct. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — As some Republicans across the country either withdraw support for or revoke endorsements of Donald Trump following a release of a vulgar video on Friday and subsequent debate on Sunday, Rhode Island’s GOP Chairman Brandon Bell says he remains in support of the Republican nominee.

“I will likely cast my vote for the Trump-Pence ticket,” he said in an interview with Eyewitness News. “I’m surely not voting for [Hillary Clinton]. I promise you that,” he said.

Sunday’s debate followed a rough two days for the Trump campaign, after The Washington Post released a video that showed the candidate making lewd comments about grabbing women’s genitalia. The comments were captured on a live microphone during a 2005 taping of “Access Hollywood.”

“It was locker room talk,” Trump said at the debate. “I’m not proud of it.” At the town-hall-style forum, he hounded Hillary Clinton on her private email server, promising to hire a special prosecutor to investigate her if he is elected, despite the FBI already determining there was not enough evidence to bring charges. Trump also said Clinton “would be in jail” if he were in charge.

“I’m glad my kids were in bed and couldn’t see that debate,” Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo said Monday. “It was a disgrace.”

Bell said Trump performed well in the debate, in part because of those attacks on Clinton’s emails.

“I think you have to point out her inadequacies,” Bell said. “And there are so many, because she continues to move her lips and lie to the American people.”

Raimondo also commented on the Facebook Live panel Trump convened 90 minutes before the debate, in which three women who have accused Bill Clinton of either rape or unwanted sexual advances expressed their support for Trump.

“He was trying to do everything he could to avoid talking about the real issues,” Raimondo said. “To just come up with distraction after distraction to avoid talking about the economy, income inequality, his plans for America.”

Bell said the stunt probably didn’t do anything for the Republican candidate. “I’m not sure what the purpose was,” he said. “Probably to throw Hillary Clinton off of her game … I’m not sure it was the right place for it.”

Bell was quick to denounce Trump’s words in the 2005 video, calling them “disgusting,” but said he would continue to support the ticket in part because of Mike Pence, with whom he spent time in Rhode Island on Saturday night.

In a conference call with Republican National Committee members Monday evening, Bell said chairman Reince Priebus assured members that Trump and Pence were both committed to the ticket, and said rumors that either candidate would drop out were unfounded.