ELKHORN, Wis. — House Speaker Paul Ryan was booed and heckled by Donald Trump supporters at a party unity rally in his congressional district Saturday, an event that the Republican nominee had originally planned to attend.
Ryan announced Friday that Trump was no longer welcome at the rally after a recording was released featuring the former reality TV star making vulgar comments about women. Trump’s running mate Mike Pence was to fill in for Trump, but the Indiana governor canceled hours before the annual “Fall Fest” event began.
Defiant Trump supporters voiced their frustration at Ryan and other Republicans who spoke at the county fairgrounds in front of two large American flags, rows of pumpkins and stacks of straw. Ryan — who said Friday he was “sickened” by Trump’s words — was heckled with shouts of “Shame on you!” and “You turned your backs on us!”
Trump’s comments were made in a 2005 video obtained and released Friday by The Washington Post and NBC News. In the video, Trump is heard describing his attempts to have sex with a married woman. He also brags about women letting him kiss and grab them because he is famous.
“When you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything,” Trump says in the previously unaired comments. He adds seconds later: “Grab them by the p—-. You can do anything.”
Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel, the only speaker to directly address Trump’s crude remarks, was heckled when he said “I know Donald Trump has said some things that are bad.”
“Get over it!” someone shouted.
Ryan obliquely referred to the furor as “a bit of an elephant in the room,” at the opening of his 7-minute speech.
“It is a troubling situation, and I’m serious, it is,” Ryan said. “I put out a statement about this last night. I meant what I said and it’s still how I feel. But that is not what we are here to talk about today.”
Other speakers — including Sen. Ron Johnson and Gov. Scott Walker — didn’t mention Trump and instead focused on state contests, such as Johnson’s Senate race with Democrat Russ Feingold. But Walker and Johnson both released statements ahead of the event denouncing Trump.
Many in the crowd made clear they were standing by the candidate.
“Trump is a great man,” said Scott Reese, a 40-year-old plumber wearing a red “Make America Great Again” hat. “We all make mistakes.”
Jean Stanley, a 50-year-old woman from New Berlin, Wisconsin, came to the rally wearing a pink T-shirt with bold, black lettering that said “Wisconsin Women Love Trump.”
“He’s a real human,” Stanley said. “It was a long time ago. We all have something in our past. He was a Hollywood icon then.”
Julie Marso, from Milwaukee, said she still supports Trump.
“You should vote according to the issues facing this country, not the kind of dirt you can dig up on people,” she said.
Orville Seymer, a 62-year-old conservative activist wearing a red, white and blue American flag hat, said the “mildly vulgar comments from 11 years ago” are getting a disproportionate amount of media attention, especially compared to Clinton’s “numerous scandals.”
Stanley called Ryan a “traitor” for denouncing Trump, a sentiment echoed by Dennis Karbowski, a trucker from Elkhorn, Wisconsin.
“Mr. Trump is human,” Karbowski said. “We’ve all said those things. … Either you believe in your party or you don’t. I don’t like Judases.”