U.S. Sen. Richard Burr said Monday that he’s still supporting Donald Trump’s presidential campaign despite the candidate’s “indefensible” comments about women on a leaked video.
In the 2005 video, Trump boasted about kissing women without consent and attempting to have sex with a married woman, and said celebrities could grab women “by the p---.” Burr had said over the weekend that he wanted to see Trump’s “level of contrition” before he decided whether to keep his endorsement of the Republican nominee.
“I think what he said is indefensible, and I’m not going to try to defend him,” Burr told The News & Observer during a campaign stop. “But as a son of a Presbyterian minister, my dad always taught me that when people ask for forgiveness, you should give it to them. He did that, and I’ve certainly forgiven him.”
Trump apologized during Sunday night’s debate and repeatedly described the comments as “locker room talk.” As a former Wake Forest University football player, Burr was asked if he thought the description was accurate.
“You hear and read comments like this from professional athletes frequently, and they’re entertainers,” Burr said. “Donald Trump was an entertainer and is in many ways. I don’t think this is something that we dwell on after somebody has asked for forgiveness.”
Burr is facing criticism for continuing to support Trump. He’s one of the newest members of Trump’s national security advisory council.
The N.C. Democratic Party released a video Monday featuring Burr’s supportive comments spliced alongside some of Trump’s most controversial statements.
“Richard Burr’s decision to look out for himself and continue serving on Donald Trump’s campaign, even in the face of Trump’s latest vile comments about women, just shows once again that Richard Burr is a classic Washington politician who puts his own political interests first,” party spokesman Matt Kravitz said in a news release.
Burr also voiced support Monday for Trump’s debate promise to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. Trump suggested that Clinton should be in jail.
“There’s a lot that we don’t know about the email scandal, and there are a lot of people that have been prosecuted for less than what it seems Hillary Clinton did,” Burr said. “So is there precedent for a special prosecutor? Probably.”
Burr made three campaign stops in the Triangle Monday, including manufacturing facilities in Morrisville and Oxford and an informal late-afternoon visit to Fred Anderson Toyota in Raleigh.
At the car dealership, Burr didn’t make a stump speech and instead toured the building and spoke privately with employees and managers. While two reporters and his press secretary awaited his arrival at the main entrance, Burr emerged alone from the building: “Looking for a senator?” he asked.
The senator said he prefers the low-key style of campaigning. “This is touching people that see the public every day, that have a feel for what the greatest issues are,” he said. “The folks here work really hard.”
Burr is in his second week of frequent campaign stops across North Carolina, many of them at manufacturing facilities. He’d largely avoided campaigning previously, saying he would become a candidate for re-election once Congress wrapped up its work.
While some have been surprised that Democratic challenger Deborah Ross is nearly tied with Burr in recent polls, the two-term incumbent said he “always thought this would be a close race, and it’s lived up to that.”
Burr’s campaign and outside groups like the National Rifle Association are spending millions on TV ads. Many of them highlight Ross’ statements voicing concerns about the state’s sex offender registry while leading the state branch of the American Civil Liberties Union. Ross has said she supported the registry.
On Monday, the National Republican Senatorial Committee opened a new line of attack. The group released an ad criticizing Ross’ 1994 efforts to prevent a 13-year-old boy facing rape charges from being tried as an adult.
“If Deborah Ross had her way, (Andre) Green would be on our streets,” the narrator says in the ad.
The Ross campaign fired back Monday, noting that she did not represent Green nor did she want him to avoid prison. It released a statement from a former N.C. Domestic Violence Commission chairwoman who says Ross is “nothing less than a champion for the safety of survivors of sexual assault and violence.”
Burr didn’t specifically address the details of the Green case when asked Monday.
“I think there’s a pattern to things that Deborah Ross has said in the past as the head lobbyist of the ACLU,” he said. “It would be troubling for any person to look at her and say she represents the values of the majority of North Carolinians.”