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Rep. Greg Walden Distances Himself From GOP Nominee: 'I Don't Know Donald Trump'

<p>U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., speaks at the Crater Lake-Klamath Regional Airport in March 2016.</p>

Kevin N. Hume

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U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., speaks at the Crater Lake-Klamath Regional Airport in March 2016.

Oregon Congressman Greg Walden has begun the work of trying to distance his fellow Republican congressional candidates from Donald Trump.

"My focus is on the House," Walden, head of the House GOP campaign committee, said in an Iowa TV interview. "I don't know Donald Trump. I've met him one time. I can't control what he is about and all that."

Walden on Monday issued a statement joining other Republicans in criticizing Republican presidential nominee following the release of a 2005 videotape that showed Trump boasting about sexually assaulting women. Walden said he would focus his energy on his own district and on preserving the Republican majority — but he did not rescind the endorsement of Trump he made in early May.

Walden told Fox 28 TV in Cedar Rapids, where he was campaigning for a Republican congressman, that "we all find it pretty despicable" what Trump said in the tape. Trump has apologized for the remarks while dismissing them as "locker room banter."

The revelations about Trump "makes it harder" for Republicans in closely contested House races, Walden acknowledged, but he added:

"Voters are pretty discerning. They know there is a difference between Donald Trump — he is is his own brand, literally he's his own brand — and then there's the rest of us that people know locally, in the grocery store, or town halls or wherever else."

Walden did approvingly quote from one GOP senator who withdrew his endorsement of Trump after the video came out.

"John McCain said it very well," Walden said. "It's his and his alone, and he will be dealt with accordingly. I just can't imagine talking that way about women. All the things that I was raised to believe and the respect that I've always had about women. It was just disgusting."

When Walden endorsed Trump in May, he said he didn't like the presidential candidate's rhetoric and some of his policy positions. But he said Trump would make a better president than Hillary Clinton.

Copyright 2016 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Jeff Mapes is a senior political reporter at Oregon Public Broadcasting. Previously, Jeff covered state and national politics for The Oregonian for nearly 32 years. He has covered numerous presidential, congressional, gubernatorial and ballot measure campaigns, as well as many sessions of the Legislature, stretching back to 1985. Jeff graduated from San Jose State University with a B.A. in journalism.