Christian Broadcasting Network founder Pat Robertson dismissed Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's 2005 tape where he bragged about groping women as an attempt to look "macho," though Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore has called the situation of evangelical leaders defending sexual assault "humiliating" and a "mess."
"Let's face it. A guy does something 11 years ago, there was a conversation in Hollywood where he's trying to look like he's macho," Robertson said on his CBN show, responding to the Trump tape.
He added: "And 11 years after that, they surface it from The Washington Post to whatever, bring it out within 30 days or so of the election and this is supposed to be the death blow and everybody writes him off, 'Okay, he's dead, now you better get out of the way and let Mike Pence run the campaign.'"
Robertson said: "The Donald says no. He's like the phoenix. They think he's dead, he's come back. And he came back strong. So, he won that debate."
His comments refer to the 2005 tape where Trump is seen making lascivious comments, describing how he tried to grope women and using profane language. The latest controversy has turned a host of other Republican leaders away from the billionaire businessman, with voices such as Arizona Senator John McCain declaring they can no longer bring themselves to support Trump.
Moore, who is the president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and has long ago denounced Trump, shared a link to Robertson's latest comments on Twitter, and wrote:
"This is how we got into this mess. This, right here. Humiliating."
He also called the Trump-Hillary Clinton debate on Sunday night "the worst political disaster I have ever seen," and added in another Tweet: "No contrition. 'Just words.' How any Christian leader is still standing behind this is just genuinely beyond my comprehension."
Moore has in turn been called a possible "closet liberal" for his criticism of Trump by Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr..
"I don't know what Russell Moore's politics really are. I don't know if he is a closet liberal or if he is a conservative," Falwell said back in July.
"I don't think it really matters what I say. I don't think it really matters what evangelical leaders on the Left say. Evangelicals and conservatives are voting as Americans and are voting to save our nation to control immigration, to stop terrorism, to bring jobs back to the country."
Former Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson has meanwhile claimed that Trump has been seeking forgiveness.
Carson told reporters that Trump prayed on Sunday morning with televangelist James Robison, who founded LIFE Outreach International, a Christian relief organization, and had asked for forgiveness.
Carson did not reveal much else about the content of the prayers, but stated that Trump "is coming ever closer to the Lord."