Some of the Republican Party's biggest financial donors urged its national committee on Thursday to drop Donald Trump in the wake of accusations he sexually assaulted women, The New York Times reported.
In a further sign the Republican presidential candidate's free-falling campaign is sowing deep divisions within a party in crisis, the paper quoted some of those who have given millions of dollars to Republicans as saying the scandal surrounding the real estate billionaire threatens the party with lasting damage unless it repudiates him.
"At some point, you have to look in the mirror and recognize that you cannot possibly justify support for Trump to your children — especially your daughters," Missouri businessman David Humphreys told the Times, which said he contributed more than $2.5 million in the last four years.
"He is a dangerous demagogue completely unsuited to the responsibilities of a United States president," New York investor Bruce Kovner said in an email to the newspaper.
"Even for loyalists, there is a line beyond which the obvious moral failings of a candidate are impossible to disregard," he wrote. "That line has been clearly breached."
The criticism extends to Republican leaders who continue to stick by Trump, including Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus.
"Reince should be fired and replaced with someone who has the competence and leadership skills to rebuild the RNC," California investor William Oberndorf told the paper.
However, the party's major donors have little leverage over a candidate who is relying largely on his own money and many small donations from his far-right electoral base.
The party's rift deepened on Monday, when House Speaker Paul Ryan — the party's top elected official — told hundreds of fellow House Republicans that he would no longer "defend" Trump.
Ryan said he would instead spend the remainder of the campaign focusing on protecting the Republican congressional majorities ahead of the Nov. 8 election.
Since then, at least six women have accused Trump of making unwanted physical advances, most of them after Trump asserted in Sunday's debate with Democratic rival Hillary Clinton that he had never sexually assaulted a woman.
The accusations surfaced after a video emerged of Trump boasting in 2005 of groping women with impunity because he was famous, sending the White House race into unprecedented levels of vulgarity.
But the 70-year-old Trump remains defiant, castigating his accusers as "horrible liars" on Thursday and accusing Clinton of conspiring in a coordinated media attempt to sabotage his campaign.
Speaking to the Times, former RNC finance chairman Al Hoffman summed up the feeling among dissenting donors: "We're headed for destruction."