Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said Sunday that the women who have accused President Donald Trump of touching or groping them without their consent "should be heard."
Haley's comments, made on CBS' "Face the Nation," diverged from the White House position on the more than a dozen women who have accused Trump of misconduct. Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders has said that the White House's position is that the women are lying and that the American people settled the issue by electing Trump despite the accusations.
Asked by CBS' John Dickerson whether she considered the allegations a "settled issue," given last year's election results, Haley responded, "You know, that's for the people to decide. I know that he was elected. But, you know, women should always feel comfortable coming forward. And we should all be willing to listen to them."
Haley's comments highlighted a challenge facing Republicans as a cultural revolution on the topic of sexual harassment sweeps the country.
Republicans have seized on allegations of wrongdoing by Democrats, including Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., and Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., who announced they would resign last week.
Republicans also have castigated liberals over high-profile allegations against figures in Hollywood and the media, including movie producer Harvey Weinstein, a one-time Hillary Clinton donor and ally.
But most have not shown similar outrage when allegations have been made against prominent Republicans, notably Trump and Senate candidate Roy Moore of Alabama.
Haley spoke about Trump's accusers after praising women who have come forward with allegations about powerful men in various other industries. Dickerson asked her how "people should assess the accusers of the president."
"They should be heard, and they should be dealt with," Haley responded. "And I think we heard from them prior to the election. And I think any woman who has felt violated or felt mistreated in any way, they have every right to speak up."
Trump has been sued for defamation in New York by one of his accusers, Summer Zervos, a former contestant on "The Apprentice" who says Trump groped and kissed her in a hotel room in 2007 during a meeting to discuss a job opportunity. She says Trump defamed her when he dismissed her account and called her and the other accusers liars. A judge is weighing whether to allow that case to proceed.
Haley's comments came in contrast to other Republicans, who have defended Trump, noting the public elected Trump president even knowing about allegations from multiple woman against him.
On NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday, Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., said that "to re-litigate the election is impossible."
"The allegations or the accusations against the president were a part of the campaign," Scott said. "Should people who were victimized have their day in court, their opportunity to present their information? I have no problem with that issue."
Democrats have continued to press the subject, with some beginning to argue Trump should resign his office like others have in face of such allegations.
"Al Franken felt it proper for him to resign," Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said in an interview with "Meet the Press" on Sunday morning. "Here you have a president who has been accused by many women of assault, who says on a tape that he assaulted women. He might want to think about doing the same."
Sanders's comment, which built on a tweet he had sent last week, came after Sens. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., said that the so-called "#MeToo moment" should prompt another look at the women who accused Trump of sexual harassment during the 2016 presidential campaign.
"The president should resign because he certainly has a track record with more than 17 women of horrific conduct," Merkley said last week in an interview for the weekday version of "Meet the Press."
On Saturday, during a campaign swing to support the Democrat in Alabama's U.S. Senate race, Booker told Vice News that the standard that brought down Franken should be applied to the president.