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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Zinke Reconsidering Trump Support: 'We've got to have this conversation'

Ryan Zinke will be President-elect Trump's nominee for secretary of the Interior.
Courtesy Ryan Zinke
Republican Congressman Ryan Zinke

It didn't take long for several prominent Republicans to say they could no longer support Donald Trump's candidacy for president, after a 2005 recording of him speaking disparagingly of women became public Friday.

On Saturday, Montana's Congressman Ryan Zinke, a strong supporter of Trump, issued this statement:

"The language is shocking and wrong, and should never be used, ever," Zinke said. "My wife, Lola, and I have talked about it and we pray he has grown from his mistake."

Shortly after he released that, MTPR News Director Emeritus Sally Mauk found herself waiting for the same plane as Zinke at the Missoula airport, and asked him to expand on his statement.

Unedited audio, and a transcript of their conversation, is below.

Sally Mauk: Obviously the news of the day is Mr. Trump's latest comments in a recording that's been released, and I know you've had a strong reaction, as have many people around the country, but tell me your overall reaction, first of all, to what he said.

Congressman Ryan Zinke: I was with you, watching CNN, we were together, and you look at - it's shocking. It is outrageous. No woman should be viewed in that manner.

RZ: I think most of America, like me, is just shocked. It's - for a presidential candidate ... I pray that he has learned from this. I pray that he has grown since 2005, but it's a reflection of how this election really is. Between - very few people are real comfortable about Mrs. Clinton, the deep level, in my opinion, of corruption, the lies. And then Mr. Trump continues to say such outlandish and outrageous statements.

This is a conversation that both Democrats and Americans, and Republicans, we've got to have this conversation. We have to demand that our leadership reflects our values and principles.

SM: You've been up to now an enthusiastic supporter of Mr. Trump. Are you still a supporter of Mr. Trump?

RZ: I'm going to meet with - I am at the moment. Because I just cannot vote for corruption or lies.

SM: Meaning Mrs. Clinton?

RZ: Mrs. Clinton, but this also shakes that – I want to confer to the leadership, I want to look at this closely, because I think it's an important issue. Regardless of who our president is, Montana is going to need a strong voice, whether it's Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Trump gets through this, Montana is going to need a strong voice to articulate our values.

SM: There are several prominent Republicans now coming out saying they may or may not support Secretary Clinton, but they cannot support Mr. Trump. Do you see that you could get to that point?

RZ: I think we're taking it in, at the moment.

Not to not answer your question - it causes concern, because our values in Montana are one of, Constitution. It came up in the last debate that my job as a congressman is to ensure that everyone has a right to be what they want to be, or be what they are. To express their views.

Our constitution provides that discrimination is not tolerated, and that's a value that Montanans across the board hold dear, and certainly Lola and I do, too.

SM: Criticism of Mr. Trump's comments are not just that it was dirty talk, but that he really admitted in a way to sexually assaulting women, and that's a much more serious issue for a presidential candidate, to say that he has intentionally grabbed women, et cetera.

RZ: Again, the concern is, as you watch it over and over again, I think all of us were shocked, and all of us were dismayed. I was highly disappointed, because I don't think any president should hold that view. Again, it was 2005, I pray that he has since changed. And then, on the other side of the ticket, again, Mrs. Clinton. America's not happy with corruption and consistent lies, and the WikiLeaks continue to come out, and this is why I think, it's not just a Republican or Democrat issue, this an American issue. America doesn't trust its government now, and we need to hold our elected officials accountable, and we need transparency.

The government works for us, and I think we have to take a stand to demand that, look, we want a system that works for everybody. We want a system that we feel good about our government, and we feel good about the elected officials. That elected officials feel like they're on our side. The first thing I did was put a plaque that my office belongs to the people of Montana, and I'm ultimately the son of a plumber, who became a SEAL, and became a congressman. But I never forget where I come from, and I talk to Montanans, whether they're Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, independent, the same. Because I represent everybody, and I'm hoping our president does the same. I think Americans demand it.

Retired in 2014 but still a presence at MTPR, Sally Mauk is a University of Kansas graduate and former wilderness ranger who has reported on everything from the Legislature to forest fires.
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