Former Republican U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney said he will not vote for this year's presumptive party nominee Donald Trump in November, citing the billionaire's racist and misogynistic remarks.
"I don't see a president of the United States saying things which change the character of the generations of Americans that are following," Romney told CNN Friday. "Presidents have an impact on the nature of our nation and trickle-down racism and trickle-down bigotry and trickle-down misogyny – all of these things are extraordinarily dangerous to the heart and character of America."
The 2012 candidate, who lost to Democrat Barack Obama, is holding his fourth annual Expert and Enthusiasts, or E2 meeting – a private retreat for Republicans where the main topic of conversation this year is the current candidate for the party.
Nearly 300 participants are attending the meeting that opened Thursday in Deer Valley, Utah.
No Democratic vote
In the TV interview, Romney said he will not vote for the Democratic candidate either.
"I just can't bring myself to vote for Hillary Clinton. I don't think that the policies that she promotes are right for the country," he said.
Instead, Romney said he is considering voting for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, a remarkable admission for a Republican leader.
House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan was grilled at Romney's gathering by fellow Republicans about his endorsement of Trump following some of the businessman's recent controversial remarks.
According to an account in The Washington Post about the closed-door session, Hewlett Packard chief executive Meg Whitman asked Ryan how he could endorse someone as divisive as Trump who engages in personal attacks.
The report said Whitman compared Trump to Adolf Hitler.
Ryan is reported to have told his fellow Republicans he is in a challenging situation because while he might have reservations about Trump, many Republican lawmakers have voters who are Trump supporters.
He encouraged the E2 participants to donate money to support House and Senate candidates in their elections.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus is set to address the E2 group Saturday.
The Republican Party is also divided over Trump, a TV reality-star candidate who has questionable conservative credentials and no political experience.
Trump emerged triumphant from a pack of more seasoned presidential hopefuls with his brash talk and an abrupt manner that alienated him from many Republican leaders. However, Republican voters chose him over the more than a dozen others.
Like Ryan, Republican leaders generally want to avoid criticizing Trump openly about his behavior and remarks, but many are appalled by what they view as the party of Abraham Lincoln hijacked by someone appealing to voters' base tendencies.