Trump's rivals criticize comment about female moderator
Aug. 09, 2015
ATLANTA (AP) — Donald Trump's bombast continued to roil the Republican presidential race Saturday as several rivals criticized his treatment of a female debate moderator. The organizer of a conservative political convention rescinded the businessman's speaking slot, angering those eager to hear from the brash billionaire who has taken an early lead in the Republican race.
The real estate mogul and reality television star, who remains a longshot candidate for the White House, refused to apologize for saying on CNN that Megyn Kelly, who aggressively questioned him during Thursday's primary debate on Fox News, had "blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever" when she asked him about his incendiary comments toward women.
The latest flare-up underscored the potential challenges Trump poses for his rivals as they struggle with the sudden rise of his insurgent, unconventional bid, with the first primary vote still 15 months away.
Trump remains a towering presence in the 17-candidate field, and his supporters at the RedState event — along with several other uncommitted attendees — said the latest flap simply reaffirms why his uncompromising approach appeals to voters who are disgusted with conventional politicians, including those in the Republican party.
Jeb Bush said Trump threatens the Republicans' prospects with female voters, who already favor Democrats in presidential elections. "Do we want to win? Do we want to insult 53 percent of our voters?" the former Florida governor told the RedState Gathering in Atlanta, where Trump had been the headliner for an evening reception at the College Football Hall of Fame.
The event's organizer, radio host Erick Erickson, offered similar sentiments when he booted Trump after his statements on CNN.
"I just don't want someone on stage who gets a hostile question from a lady and his first inclination is to imply it was hormonal," Erickson wrote on his website, even as he acknowledged that Trump "resonates with a lot of people with his bluntness."
In a statement, Trump maintained that "only a deviant" would interpret his comments that way. He called Erickson "a total loser" with "a history of supporting establishment losers in failed campaigns."
Former tech executive Carly Fiorina, the only woman among the Republican contenders, took to Twitter: "Mr. Trump. There. Is. No. Excuse." She added, "I stand with @megynkelly."
Mike Huckabee, who also had a RedState speaking slot, just seemed exasperated by it all, asking reporters for a "non-Donald Trump question." When he got another, the former Arkansas governor quipped: "I'm running for president. I'm not running for social media critic of somebody else who's running for president."
Some RedState attendees said they are not necessarily Trump supporters but want other candidates and party leaders to take heed of his rise.
Connie Thomas of Atlanta, executive of a health care consultancy, said Trump went "too far" in the CNN interview but is serving a "good purpose" in the race: "He's forcing the rest of this field to speak more forcefully, more clearly against the establishment."
Jack Staver, a business consultant from Woodstock, Georgia, said Trump's rivals could benefit from emulating his style, even if it gets him into trouble. "Quit being who everybody wants you to be, and be who you are," Staver said.
Some other candidates have at least tacitly acknowledged the tightrope they must walk with Trump's supporters.
Bush was the only one of a half-dozen candidates at the RedState gathering who mentioned Trump during his remarks on the podium. And in recent weeks, Bush has on several occasions differentiated Trump from his backers, whom he calls "good people."
Huckabee, even in his frustration Saturday, said Trump has "tapped into an anger" among the electorate. "I'm angry, too," he said.
Meanwhile, the flap has reached into Trump's campaign operation. His campaign announced Saturday afternoon that he had fired one of his top advisers, Roger Stone. However, Stone maintained that he quit Saturday morning after seeing Trump's CNN comments from Friday night.
According to an email obtained by the Associated Press, Stone wrote to Trump, "The current controversies involving personalities and provocative media fights have reached such a high volume that it has distracted attention from your platform and overwhelmed your core message."
Trump's campaign manager said he never received the email.
Associated Press writer Jill Colvin in Washington contributed to this report.
Follow the reporters on Twitter at https://twitter.com/BillBarrowAP and https://twitter.com/sbustosAP .