DANVILLE, Ky. — U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to acknowledge Donald Trump on Monday, telling a group of business leaders in his home state of Kentucky that if they expected to hear him discuss the presidential race they “might as well go ahead and leave.”
McConnell twice instructed the crowd at the Danville-Boyle County Chamber of Commerce luncheon to not ask him about the presidential race “even though that’s what I know you all wanted me to talk about today.” His comments came hours after Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan told a conference call of GOP lawmakers he will “spend his entire energy making sure that Hillary Clinton does not get a blank check with a Democrat-controlled Congress.”
Ryan joined a growing list of Republican leaders who have distanced themselves from Trump after a video surfaced last week showing the GOP presidential nominee boasting about his abusive conduct toward women, including kissing and groping women without their consent.
While McConnell is not on the ballot this year, he is working to preserve the Republican majority in the U.S. Senate. After his speech on Monday, McConnell ignored a question from a reporter asking if he was advising Republican Senate candidates to disavow Trump. Several incumbent Republicans running for re-election this year have pulled their support for Trump, including Rob Portman in Ohio, Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire and Arizona’s John McCain, the 2008 Republican nominee for president.
“If you are interested in the presidential election you might as well go ahead and leave because I don’t have any observations to make about it,” McConnell told the crowd to begin his speech. “In my job as majority leader of the Senate I’ve found that my observations, no matter where I make them, are immediately sort of spun around the world and I don’t have anything to add on the presidential race today.”
At one point, McConnell asked a young woman in the audience to stop recording him, despite several members of the news media who were in the room recording his remarks.
In a news release last week, McConnell said Trump’s comments were “repugnant and unacceptable in any circumstance” and called on Trump to apologize. But he has not withdrawn his endorsement, as others have.
While McConnell did not discuss the presidential race, he told the crowd he chooses “not to be depressed about the future of the country.”
“Elections come and go, leaders come and go. You are going to be just fine,” he said.