House subcommittee of Federal Workforce,US Postal Service and the Census Chairman Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, holds up a letter about sequestration...
Photo by Jacquelyn Martin/AP

GOP congressman struggles with the limits of his Trump support

Updated
One of the driving questions of the 2016 presidential campaign has been directed at Republicans backing Donald Trump: How far would he have to go before you withdrew your support?

Racist rhetoric, as we discovered, wasn’t enough for Trump’s GOP supporters to give up on his candidacy. Misogyny wasn’t either. Criticizing veterans and their families, mocking people with physical disabilities, and praising dictators also did little to undermine Republicans’ allegiance to Trump. In January, the candidate himself marveled at the dynamic: “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters, OK? It’s, like, incredible.”

Late last week, when an audio recording surfaced of Trump bragging about sexual assault, dozens of GOP officials abandoned the Republican presidential candidate, but even in this case, the vast majority of the party’s members of Congress and governors stuck with Trump.

So, for these loyal partisans, is there any limit? Is there literally nothing the GOP nominee could say or do to cause them to walk away? On MSNBC’s “All In with Chris Hayes,” the host posed a striking hypothetical to Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas). Here’s the relevant part of the exchange:
FARENTHOLD: I’m not here to defend Donald Trump. I don’t like what he said, but …

HAYES: If a tape came out with Donald Trump saying that – if a tape came out with Donald Trump saying that, saying “I really like to rape women,” you would continue to endorse him.

FARENTHOLD: Again, it would, I — that would be bad, and I would have to consider – I’d consider it. But again, we’re talking about what Donald Trump said 10 years ago as opposed to what Hillary Clinton has done in the past two or three years.
In other words, if the Texas congressman heard Donald Trump boasting about rape, Farenthold would “consider” withdrawing his support, but according to what he said on the air last night, it wouldn’t be an automatic deal-breaker.

After the MSNBC interview, the Republican lawmaker turned to Twitter to clarify matters, explaining, “I apologize for my failure to immediately condemn anyone who would say something as outrageous as they like raping women. During an interview on MSNBC with Chris Hayes tonight, I was thrown off by the anchor’s use of a hypothetical question. I do not, and have not ever condoned rape or violence against women. That is not the kind of man I believe Donald Trump to be.”

If Farenthold’s name sounds familiar, there’s a good reason. He’s been at the center of some controversies in recent years, including a lawsuit from a former staffer who claimed she was fired after complaining about the congressman creating a hostile work environment through unwelcome romantic advances. The case was later settled out of court.

In 2010, Farenthold was confronted with a series of photographs in which he wore yellow-ducky pajamas alongside scantily clad young women.



Blake Farenthold and Donald Trump

GOP congressman struggles with the limits of his Trump support

Updated