ST. LOUIS ― Some of the country’s most prominent religious conservatives are still standing with Donald Trump, despite recordings that surfaced Friday in which the real estate mogul boasts about predatory sexual behavior.
“As I have made clear, my support for Donald Trump in the general election was never based upon shared values rather it was built upon shared concerns,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council and a supporter of the GOP nominee.
But at Memorial Presbyterian Church, a 150-year-old place of worship that sits a few blocks from Washington University, the host of the second presidential debate, Trump’s lewd comments elicited revulsion from voters all over the political spectrum.
“It’s pretty despicable stuff,” Aaron Becker, who leans Republican, told The Huffington Post following Sunday services. “The whole locker room talk argument is weak. I’ve been in locker rooms all my life; I’ve never heard anybody speak that way.”
In a video that he called an apology, Trump on Friday explained that he was merely participating in “locker-room banter” when he boasted in 2005 that he could grab any woman “by the pussy” because of his celebrity status and revealed that he had tried to have sex with a married woman. (Trump had married his third wife, Melania, just months before.)
The recording sparked a wave of GOP defections, as dozens of Republican lawmakers pulled their endorsements for Trump. Some went so far as to call on the nominee to drop out of the race.
Cindy Gee, who plays music at Memorial Presbyterian, told HuffPost she was considering voting for Clinton even though she is a registered Republican.
“I think he’s a very egocentric person. Not sensitive. Not compassionate,” she said of Trump.
“They gotta get their act together,” she added, speaking of the Republican Party. “In some ways I want Hillary to be in [the White House] so Republicans get their act together in four years. People that I used to respect, I just don’t understand now. We’re a mess. We’re a mess right now.”
Even supporters of the brash New York real estate mogul struggled to explain his derogatory comments toward women. Gary and Brenda, a couple walking out of the service, declined to give their last name in an interview with HuffPost. But they said they were “probably” voting for Trump come November.
“I’m not supportive of his life. As far as people’s he’s surrounded himself with ― that helps,” said Gary, who is a former realtor.
“I disagree with [Trump’s comments],” interjected Gary’s wife, Brenda, who works as a nurse.
“I’m not surprised,” Gary continued. “He wasn’t a politician back then, either. Unfortunately, the candidates we have to choose from are both very fraudulent people. I wish we had better choices.”
The couple said they were more focused on the candidate’s platform, including his plan to create jobs, cut debt and tighten immigration laws.
“We’re not electing a moral leader,” Brenda said. “But God uses people that are immoral and can also do good things.”
Asked if he had ever heard anyone talk like Trump in the locker room, Gary said he “absolutely” did. “Everyone knows what locker room talk is. It exists,” he added.
Brenda quickly amended her husband’s remarks.
“You don’t necessarily agree with it,” she said.
“No,” Gary agreed. “Maybe years ago, I was a passive person in the middle of that kind of conversation, too. I don’t know; I can’t defend that. I’m not going to defend that. It makes it harder for me to vote for him, definitely.”
The couple said they would be watching tonight’s debate closely to see how Trump handles the controversy.
“It would be helpful for me to hear a real apology. He’s apologized, but it would be different hearing from him [on stage],” Gary said.
HUFFPOST READERS: What’s happening in your state or district? The Huffington Post wants to know about all the campaign ads, mailers, robocalls, candidate appearances and other interesting campaign news happening by you. Email any tips, videos, audio files or photos to email@example.com.
Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.
Sign up for the HuffPost Must Reads newsletter. Each Sunday, we will bring you the best original reporting, longform writing and breaking news from the Huffington Post and around the web, plus behind-the-scenes looks at how it’s all made. Click here to sign up!