Dozens of reluctant Donald Trump backers have withdrawn their support in the past few days. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said he would no longer bother trying to defend the nominee, as it was eating into the time he needed to salvage his own career. John McCain said that he would write in the name of a “good conservative Republican who is qualified to be President" on his ballot, and plenty of his colleagues have said that Trump should step down altogether and let Mike Pence take the reins. (Since thousands of people have already voted, this is like remembering that Doritos Locos Tacos give you intestinal distress after ordering a dozen.)
Although many of these newly formed #NeverTrumpers argue that defending Trump’s behavior became impossible only after audio surfaced of him saying “grab them by the pussy,” this is not a new problem. Trump supporters have had the difficult job of coming up with complimentary words about their candidate for months, like people on the Titanic trying to recruit followers to head down to the dining room for a late-night snack while everyone else is running toward the lifeboats.
Here is an assortment of ways people have been trying to explain how Trump’s chronic case of verbal diarrhea is actually a blessing in disguise, and how everything was definitely proceeding as planned until last Friday — or might still be perfectly fine right now!
When Trump fought back against the Pope
Campaign manager Kellyanne Conway: “Oftentimes, Mr. Trump punches down. I actually think the Pope is punching up or punching across, if you will, if you’re Mr. Trump.”
When Trump fat-shamed Miss Universe
Newt Gingrich: “You’re not supposed to gain 60 pounds during the year that you’re Miss Universe."
When Trump said the election might be rigged
Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions: “There’s cheating in every election.”
When Trump said women who got abortions should be punished
Ben Carson: "Bear in mind, I don't believe that he was warned that that question was coming, and I don't think he really had a chance to really think about it."
Fox News host Steve Doocy: "He only became a politician about six or seven months ago. This is new for him."
When Trump said that Second Amendment people could maybe stop Clinton from picking bad Supreme Court justices
California Representative Duncan Hunter: "I would disagree on this point — you're treating Mr. Trump's words like he is the most articulate person who's ever graced our ears with his words, and that is not true. ... He's a businessperson who’s running for president. So I don't think the way he said that, and the sequence of his statements, I'm not going to judge him on that, because I don't think that's what he meant. And I think he can be inarticulate at times."
Paul Ryan: “It sounds like just a joke gone bad."
When Trump said he wouldn’t necessarily defend NATO allies
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: "I am willing to kind of chalk it up to a rookie mistake."
When Trump said a judge (who was born in Indiana) couldn’t be fair to him because of his “Mexican heritage”
New York Representative Lee Zeldin: "There is more than just words to define a person. You can easily argue that the president of the United States is a racist with his policy and rhetoric."
Mitch McConnell: "Well, what I am willing to say is that Donald Trump is certainly a different kind of candidate."
Georgia Senator David Perdue: “You know, you guys want to talk about this in one dimension. This is a much more dimensional issue. It’s not just about his comment."
When Trump attacked Khizr Khan
Carl Paladino, co-chair of the Trump campaign in New York: “All right, I don’t care if he’s a Gold Star parent. He certainly doesn’t deserve that title, OK, if he’s as anti-American as he’s illustrated in his speeches and in his discussion. I mean, if he’s a member of the Muslim Brotherhood or supporting, you know, the ISIS-type of attitude against America, there’s no reason for Donald Trump to have to honor this man.”
When the New York Times published a story about Trump’s treatment of women
Reince Priebus: “All these stories that come out — and they come out every couple weeks — people just don’t care. I think people look at Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton and say, ‘Who’s going to bring an earthquake to D.C.?’”
Dana Perino: “The other thing that he has said that I think is somewhat, I think, defensible. He talked about past degradation of women in this way: ‘I never anticipated running for public office or being a politician.’ ... He basically talks about being entertaining and it was not necessarily meant to be degrading.”
When Trump was being a birther in 2012
Mitt Romney: “You know, I don't agree with all the people who support me and my guess is they don't all agree with everything I believe in. But I need to get 50.1 percent or more and I'm appreciative to have the help of a lot of good people.”
Chris Christie: "It wasn't like he was talking about it on a regular basis."
When people complained that Trump was a fake conservative
Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions: “He bought an ad — people say he wasn’t a conservative — but he bought an ad 20 years ago in the New York Times calling for the death penalty. How many people in New York, that liberal bastion, were willing to do something like that?”
When Trump said that Russian hackers should find Clinton’s emails
Mike Pence: "You know, Abraham Lincoln said, give the people the facts, and the republic will be saved. I mean, I think that’s the point that [Trump is] making. He’s not encouraging some foreign power to compromise the security of this country.”
When Trump said Ted Cruz’s dad may have helped assassinate JFK
Reince Priebus: “He’s got a right to talk about whatever he wants to talk about, however, I don’t think he was ever saying this was some sort of factual information."
When Trump’s 1995 tax return was released
Chris Christie: “This was actually a very, very good story for him."
When Trump said Clinton's Secret Service detail should drop its guns and “see what happens to her.”
Chris Christie: "He was trying to make a point about Hillary Clinton wanting to have one set of rules for herself and another set for the American people."
When Trump said “What do you have to lose?” to black voters
Chris Christie: "The message is that if anybody lives in those circumstances in this country, that’s something that the government should be working to try to change."
When Trump changes his immigration stance
Chris Christie: “The fact is, Donald Trump is going to tell you exactly what he thinks. Sometimes you’ll agree with it, sometimes you won’t, but you’ll never have to wonder."
When a reporter asked if Trump would prove he’s under audit
Kellyanne Conway: "Seriously, we're running against a Clinton, and we're going to challenge someone's veracity?"
When Melania Trump plagiarized Michelle Obama
Newt Gingrich: "If they were the same words, I would argue Melania delivered them a heck of a lot better than Michelle. So Michelle ought to look at the videotape to see what a really great delivery of those words was."
Republican spokesperson Sean Spicer: "Twilight Sparkle from 'My Little Pony' said, 'This is your dream. Anything you can do in your dreams, you can do now.'"
When Trump tweeted a white supremacist meme
Corey Lewandowski: "The bottom line is this is political correctness run amok. If this were to be a star next to Hillary Clinton without the cash behind it, no one would be questioning this."
When Trump said Obama founded ISIS
Rudy Giuliani: “I think what he’s saying, there is legitimate political commentary."
When Trump was unable to answer questions about major figures and groups in the Middle East
Sarah Palin: “I’d rather have a president who is tough and puts America first than can win a game of Trivial Pursuit."
When Trump sent the taco bowl tweet
Reince Priebus: “He’s trying. Honestly, he’s trying."
When Trump said Vladimir Putin was a strong leader
Kellyanne Conway: "He's not praising him so much as saying we'll work with people, anybody who wants to help stop the advance of ISIS."
When Trump sent out a late-night tweet that read, “Check out sex tape”
North Carolina Representative Renee Ellmers: “Donald Trump is setting the record straight and he's using social media. That's the kind of president we need.”
When Trump continued to say the Central Park Five were guilty, even after DNA evidence exonerated them
Rudy Giuliani: "They confessed. Their alibi is they were beating someone else up, which I think is pretty weird.”
When Trump said “Grab them by the pussy”
Susan Hutchinson, GOP chair of Washington state: "Donald Trump's indecent comments in 2005 ... were made when he was a Democrat."
Jeff Sessions: “I don’t characterize that as sexual assault. I think that’s a stretch. I don’t know what he meant.”
Rudy Giuliani: “We’ve taken it to an extra degree of what he’s said, but the fact is that men at times talk like that. Not all men. But men do."
Maine Governor Paul LePage: "Sometimes I wonder that our Constitution is not only broken, but we need a Donald Trump to show some authoritarian power in our country and bring back the rule of law because we've had eight years of a president — he's an autocrat, he just does it on his own, he ignores Congress and every single day, we're slipping into anarchy."