Native Republicans in Congress silent as GOP abandons Donald Trump


Rep. Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma) is a member of the Chickasaw Nation. Photo from Twitter

The only two tribal citizens in Congress have maintained silence as dozens of their Republican colleagues have abandoned presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Rep. Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma), a member of the Chickasaw Nation, and Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Oklahoma), a member of the Cherokee Nation, reluctantly embraced their party's top candidate despite questions about his temperament and fitness for office. But they haven't said anything in the days following an explosive report in The Washington Post that documented Trump's extremely offensive comments about women and how he treats them.

Their silence stands in contrast to top Republicans who no longer support Trump. The growing list includes Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), who is running for re-election, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who also is seeking re-election.

In a statement, McCain, a former two-term chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, said "Donald Trump’s behavior this week, concluding with the disclosure of his demeaning comments about women and his boasts about sexual assaults, make it impossible to continue to offer even conditional support for his candidacy."

"He not only objectified women, he bragged about preying upon them. I cannot and will not support Donald Trump for President – he has forfeited the right to be our party’s nominee," Murkowski, who was the first woman to serve as vice chair of the committee, said in a statement. "He must step aside."


Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Oklahoma). Photo from Sen. Jim Inhofe / Twitter

Cole, who has praised Trump for adding Mike Pence to the ticket, and Mullin are also seeking re-election this year but their silence on the controversy is not likely to affect their campaigns. Both enjoy strong support in their respective Congressional districts and aren't facing serious challenges from any Democrats or other opponents.

But Democrat Denise Juneau, who hopes to join Cole and Mullin as the third Native American in Congress, and the only Native woman, isn't standing on the sidelines. She is calling on her opponent, Ryan Zinke, the Republican incumbent, to denounce Trump.

"Donald Trump has shown his complete disrespect for women since the beginning of his campaign, but that didn’t stop Congressman Zinke from backing him from day one," Juneau, who is a member of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, said in a statement.

Zinke, who is serving his first term in office, continues to support Trump. He criticized the candidate's "language" but did not withdraw his endorsement.

"The language Mr. Trump used is shocking and wrong, and should never be used, ever. My wife, Lola, and I have talked about it and we pray he has grown from this mistake," Zinke wrote on Facebook.

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