Top Trump Surrogate Says Comments About Groping Don't Amount to Sexual Assault

Sen. Jeff Sessions did say the remarks were "inappropriate."

ByABC News
October 10, 2016, 4:39 PM

— -- Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., one of Donald Trump’s most enthusiastic supporters in Congress, is drawing fire for saying late Sunday that he did not believe Donald Trump’s comments about women amounted to sexual assault.

At least one writer, Bret Stephens, an editor for the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, likened the remark to that of Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO), whose comment about “legitimate rape” was largely seen as responsible for tanking his Senate election prospects against Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill in 2012.

During an interview with conservative outlet the Weekly Standard, Sessions was asked about Trump’s lewd 2005 comments, released Friday, in which he said he could grab women by the genitals with impunity.

“This was very improper language, and he's acknowledged that,” Sessions said.

But asked whether he would characterize that behavior as sexual assault if it took place, Sessions responded, “I don't characterize that as sexual assault. I think that's a stretch.”

Asked to elaborate, Sessions responded, “It’s not clear that he – how that would occur.”

It didn’t take long for Democratic operatives to seize on the remarks, with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee sending out press releases asking whether Republican Senate candidates agreed with Sessions.

On Tuesday afternoon - two calendar days after Sessions made his comments to the Weekly Standard - a spokesman for the senator issued a statement in which Sessions said he confused the content of the video with the question posed by the reporter.

"The Weekly Standard’s characterization of comments I made following Sunday’s Presidential debate is completely inaccurate. My hesitation was based solely on confusion of the contents of the 2005 tape and the hypothetical posed by the reporter, which was asked in a chaotic post-debate environment. I regret that it resulted in an inaccurate article that misrepresented my views. Of course it is crystal clear that assault is unacceptable. I would never intentionally suggest otherwise.?"

The spokesman, Christopher Jackson, did not respond to a follow-up question about whether Sessions believes the behavior Trump was describing would constitute sexual assault.

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