After Dumping Trump, Cory Gardner Gets Crushed by HBO's John Oliver Anyway

In August, as we've reported, Colorado Senator Cory Gardner, who'd vacillated about whether to formally endorse Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, said, "I’m voting Republican up and down the ticket. A Republican president will make a difference, even a Republican president named Donald Trump."

Well, never mind. After the release last Friday of a 2005 Access Hollywood recording in which Trump, not knowing that his microphone was hot, told unctuous TV personality Billy Bush about how his star power allowed him to do anything to women, including "grab ’em by the pussy," Gardner joined other GOP officials in retracting his endorsement.

The Gardner statement reads: “I will not vote for Donald Trump. If Donald Trump wishes to defeat Hillary Clinton, he should do the only thing that will allow us to do so — step aside, and allow [vice presidential nominee] Mike Pence to be the Republican party’s nominee. If he fails to do so, I will not vote for Hillary Clinton but will instead write in my vote for Mike Pence."

If Gardner thought this move would help him steer clear of Trump-related damage, he was wrong. Immediately after last night's presidential debate, during which Trump upped the ugliness quotient by promising to jail rival Hillary Clinton if elected, HBO aired Last Week Tonight, during which host John Oliver displayed Gardner's photo while ripping him and others for withdrawing support that was unconscionable in the first place.

In a Last Week Tonight segment on view below, Oliver appeared alongside head shots of Gardner and other Republicans who'd backed away from Trump prior to airing video clips of GOP politicos expressing shock over the video. Among them were representatives Sean Duffy of Wisconsin and Jason Chaffetz of Utah, as well as Utah Senator Mike Lee of Utah. Also highlighted was Arizona's John McCain, who un-endorsed Trump only after putting out an initial statement that stopped short of that mark. The first McCain comment ended with the line, "[Trump] alone should bear the burden of his conduct and alone should suffer the consequences."

"Except no, he alone does not bear the burden of his conduct — because he alone did not make himself your party's nominee," Oliver responded. "All of you have consistently supported him through some absolutely heinous shit. In his very first campaign speech, he called Mexicans 'rapists.' And that was just the beginning, because since then, he has proposed a temporary ban on Muslim immigrants, advocated for killing terrorists' families, which is, by the way, a war crime, argued for waterboarding even if it doesn't obtain information because, and I quote, 'they deserve it anyway,' and just this week, he stood by his claims that the Central Park Five were guilty despite the fact that DNA evidence has since exonerated them."

At that point, the head shots returned (supplemented by a McCain pic), with Oliver adding, "And all of you still thought he should be president. So the only way you get to be shocked and outraged now is if you were cryogenically frozen until Friday afternoon, and that Access Hollywood tape was the first thing you saw upon being reanimated. Anything less than that, and this is on you, too."

Two other Republican candidates from Colorado got luckier than Gardner, at least when it came to being on the receiving end of Oliver's hypocrisy accusations. Representative Mike Coffman, who'd already expressed antipathy toward Trump, formalized his disdain with these remarks: “For the good of the country, and to give the Republicans a chance of defeating Hillary Clinton, Mr. Trump should step aside. His defeat at this point seems almost certain, and four years of Hillary Clinton is not what is best for this country.”

Then, on the afternoon of Saturday, October 8, U.S. Senatorial candidate Darryl Glenn, who spoke in support of Trump at this summer's Republican National Convention in Cleveland, shared the following announcement on his Facebook page:
"As a father, as a Christian, and as a Republican, I believe that we simply cannot tolerate a nominee who speaks this way about women.

"This is the most important election of our lifetime. Hillary Clinton is a threat to the rule of law, and to our safety and security. But Donald Trump is simply disqualified from being Commander in Chief — America cannot have a man who speaks this way about women be the face of our country to the Free World.

"I am therefore calling on Donald Trump to do the honorable, selfless thing — voluntarily step aside and let Mike Pence be our party's nominee so that we can defeat Hillary Clinton, keep control of the Senate, and put our nation back on a path of safety and security.

"If Trump is truly committed to making America great again, then this is the only way forward." 
Glenn's stand was belittled in a reply from Andrew Zucker, campaign communications director for his opponent, Senator Michael Bennet.

Here's the Zucker take, also issued on October 8:
“As recently as last night Darryl Glenn refused to back down from his steadfast support for Donald Trump, and Glenn’s eleventh-hour act of political self-preservation rings about as hollow as Donald Trump’s apology to voters. Darryl Glenn praised Donald Trump as a ‘patriot’ even as Trump insulted immigrants as ‘rapists’ and ‘criminals,’ mocked people with disabilities, praised dictators like Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong Un, and denigrated a Gold Star family. Voters will remember that up until this day, Glenn has been Trump’s highest-profile supporter in Colorado, and unfortunately for him, the time to take a principled stand has already passed.”

“For the good of the country, and to give the Republicans a chance of defeating Hillary Clinton, Mr. Trump should step aside. His defeat at this point seems almost certain ,and four years of Hillary Clinton is not what is best for this country.”
Plenty of observers believe the last thing Clinton wants at this point is for Trump to surrender and let Pence take his place — not that such a move would be logistically possible at this late date. But no doubt Gardner and company hope Trump vanishes from the political stage as soon as possible, if only to prevent more humiliating jeremiads of the sort Oliver launched last night.

Here's the aforementioned clip, followed by the unexpurgated Trump video, as published by the New York Times.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts