Republican strategist claims candidate is ‘exploiting’ anti-gay smear campaign

The chief GOP strategist has attacked an independent candidate over his response to a homophobic smear campaign from a pro-Trump group.

Independent Republican candidate Evan McMullin has been making strong gains in his heavily-Mormon home state of Utah, with Donald Trump facing a potential loss in the state next week.

Ahead of the election, a pro-Trump group has barraged voters in the state with automated robocalls, attempting to dissuade Mormons from voting for McMullin by branding him a “closet homosexual”.

The call claims: “Evan has two mommies. His mother is a lesbian, married to another woman. Evan is okay with that. Indeed Evan supports the Supreme Court ruling legalising gay marriage. Evan is over 40 years old and is not married and doesn’t even have a girlfriend. I believe Evan is a closet homosexual.”

The Trump campaign has disavowed the robocalls, which were perpetrated by a super PAC controlled by former Trump delegate William Johnson.

But Mr McMullin tied them to the Trump campaign’s tactics, saying: “This is exactly the narrative and the approach that the Donald Trump campaign has had, so when I heard news of the robocall, I thought ‘this is more of the same’.”

He came under attack from GOP strategist Sean Spicer for the comments.

Speaking to CNN, Spicer said: “The call is disgusting. It’s reprehensible and it was appropriately denounced by the campaign. But for him to then turn it back on them is almost as reprehensible. We live in a country of over 300-plus million people.

“Not everybody who supports Donald Trump, not everyone who supports Hilary Clinton, are exactly the kind of people that you want as supporters.

“[Trump]’s denounced it over and over again, and to continue to give this legs when they’ve made it very clear this is not the kind of campaign they want to be associated with, to give it breath is to help someone like this get their message out.

“For Evan to turn it back on the Trump campaign is really not in good keeping.”