Although many Jewish supporters of Donald Trump were repulsed by his 2005 taped comments in which he bragged that his celebrity status allowed him to grope women, only two of more than a dozen Trump supporters interviewed by The Jewish Week said they could no longer vote for him.
A board member of the Republican Jewish Coalition, Kenneth Bialkin, said he disagreed with those who believe Trump’s comments disqualified him from being president.
“I think he was tricked into saying things, and he was speaking during a period of time in life when most men are more sex driven,” he said. “He’s now at a different age and nobody should read into it — that was then and this is now.”
Trump, 70, was 59 when he made the remarks during an off-camera conversation with Billy Bush of Access Hollywood.
Bialkin, an attorney and longtime national Jewish leader from New York, stressed that he has still “not decided nor given any money to either side” in the presidential race, but he added: “My inclination at the moment is that Trump makes a lot of statements that are sensible, and I would not exclude the possibility of supporting him if he took the right positions on the right issues.”
But another board member of the RJC who asked not to be identified said he had recently had a good conversation with William Weld, the former two-term Republican governor of Massachusetts who is now running for vice president on the Libertarian ticket, and is seriously considering voting for that party.
Another Republican distancing himself from Trump is Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, a former Republican aide who had supported several other Republican presidential candidates during the primaries. He said he had only “reluctantly” decided to support Trump when left with no choice.
“I went with him, but it’s not tenable” after hearing Trump’s comments on the tape, he said.
“All men talk about a woman’s attributes, but at least in my circle of friends we don’t talk about grabbing women without their consent or assaulting them,” he said. “This is where he irreversibly damaged himself.”
On the other hand, Wiesenfeld said, “there is a double standard in this country in which liberals can get away with that and worse, which is what Bill Clinton did.”
He said he believes Hillary Clinton should have been charged with a misdemeanor — without jail time — for her misuse of secret government e-mails, and replaced on the ticket by Vice President Joe Biden, whom Wiesenfeld said he could have supported.
“I can’t tell you what I think now,” he said. “I just might write in [Mike] Pence’s name for president.”
Sid Dinerstein, former chair of the Palm Beach [Florida] County Republican Party, said the tape would have been far more damaging had Trump been running against a “normal Democrat with a normal background.”
“For the Clintons to accuse anybody of being crude is pretty laughable,” he said.
Dinerstein said he also supported Trump’s decision to have present at the debate several of the women who have accused former President Bill Clinton of making unwanted sexual advances.
“The public needs to see there are real victims of the Clintons,” Dinerstein said.
Daniel Retter, a Park Avenue lawyer who said he was also upset with Trump’s taped comments, nevertheless said he continues to support Trump and will vote for him.
“What Trump said was not nice and he apologized for it,” he said, adding that he found the outrage over Trump’s comments hypocritical when all he did was “say something — which is not a crime” — while Bill Clinton “did commit a criminal act.”
But Suri Davis-Stern, a Long Island lawyer, said she found Trump’s remarks so disturbing that she can no longer vote for him.
“We Jews consider ourselves ethical people and the fact that [in Sunday’s debate] Trump could brush off what he said as ‘locker room talk’ does not sit well with the Orthodox — and professionals in every walk of life,” she said.
Asked what she will do Election Day, Davis-Stern replied: “Most people are saying they are not going to vote because there is no one to vote for. But you can make a stand and tell the big parties you don’t like their candidates — Hillary because of what she did during Benghazi and her [lack of] truthfulness, and Trump because of his bigotry and locker room talk.”
An AJC poll released last month found that 61 percent of Jews polled were for Clinton and just 19 percent for Trump. It found that fully 50 percent of Orthodox Jews supported Trump, compared with only 29 percent of Conservative Jews, 10 percent of Reform Jews and 17 percent of those who identified themselves as “Just Jewish.”
Interestingly, 15 percent of Orthodox Jews said they had decided they would not vote for any presidential candidate this year.
Karen Green of Woodmere, L.I., said she is considering doing just that.
The owner of a communications and political consulting firm that bears her name, Green said many Orthodox Jews support Trump because they believe he will be “good for Israel” and have “tried to ignore or been unfazed by his vile and lewd comments.
“People in the media said he needed to apologize, and I thought it was timely, being on the cusp of Yom Kippur,” she said. “But an apology should not have been used as an opportunity to pivot and attack someone else.”
She was referring to Trump’s attack on Bill Clinton regarding the claims of sexual misconduct and the candidate’s assertion that some of those women were “destroyed not by him but by the way that Hillary Clinton treated them after everything went down.”
Asked whom she would vote for, Green said: “I thought initially that Trump was refreshing — a departure from partisan politics. I think Hillary Clinton will prevail, but I’m troubled by some of her advisers with respect to Israel — and I’m echoing the sentiments of many of my neighbors in the area. I just might sit it out.”
Among those continuing to support Trump is Alan Skorski, author of “Israel Betrayed,” which contends that a Clinton presidency would be “disastrous for Israel.”
“Trump wasn’t my first choice, but I’m supporting him because of what the alternative is,” he said.
Charles Kovit, executive leader of the Hewlett (L.I.) Republican Committee, said he was “disappointed with what I heard on the tape, but I fully accept his apology and support him 100 percent on the issues of the day.”
Steven Geller, a commercial mortgage broker, said he believes the tape is “meaningless in terms of the election.
“Unfortunately, kids listen to music lyrics worse than that and pay money for it,” he said. “Of course it’s terrible. He apologized for it. … He is the only one with a lack of ties to corporations who is able to fight the fight and make it possible for a Republican to win the presidency.”
Mel Lax of Dix Hills, L.I., said he realizes that Trump “may be a flawed candidate,” but he said he is voting for him because, among other things, he is not sure of Clinton’s support for Israel and because her running mate boycotted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress on the Iran nuclear agreement.
“I feel Trump will pick good people to serve with him and we can’t take a chance with Hillary’s deception and lies,” he said.
Hillary Markowitz, New York coordinator of JewschooseTrump who sports a T-shirt reading, “Hillary Loves Donald Trump,” said she was upset that the “liberal media” gave so much attention to the tape “when hundreds of people died in the hurricane and hundreds of thousands were displaced from their homes.
“And yet, this was the No. 1 breaking news,” she said. “Are you kidding me?”