Donald Trump makes rare apology after video emerges of him making sexually aggressive comments about women
Donald Trump's chances of winning the US election were dealt a severe blow on Friday night after the emergence of a video in which he discusses "grabbing (women) by the p----" and states that “when you’re a star, they let you do it”.
The Republican presidential nominee uses lewd and sexually aggressive language to brag about groping and trying to have sex with women, including someone who was already married, in footage obtained by The Washington Post.
The billionaire businessman, who will face the nation in the second presidential debate on Monday, took the rare step of apologising for any offence he might have caused on the tape where he boasts of a failed attempt to try and "f***" the television journalist Nancy O’Dell.
In the hot-mic recording from 2005, Mr Trump is then heard salivating over the actress Arianne Zucker as he prepares to disembark from a bus at the studios of Days of Our Lives, a soap-opera on which he was about to record a cameo appearance.
Looking uncharacteristically chastened, the New York reality TV presenter turned presidential candidate, recorded a statement which he delivered in stilted fashion, apparently using an auto-cue.
"I've never said I'm a perfect person, nor pretended to be someone that I'm not. I've said and done things I regret, and the words released today on this more than a decade-old video are one of them," he said, "Anyone who knows me knows these words don't reflect who I am. I said it, I was wrong and I apologize."
In an attempt to salvage the situation, Mr Trump added that his travels around America as a presidential candidate, meeting thousands of hard-pressed working Americans had "changed me", before trying to dismiss the tape as inconsequential.
"Let's be honest. We're living in the real world. This is nothing more than a distraction from the important issues we're facing today. We're losing our jobs. We're less safe than we were eight years ago and Washington is totally broken."
He concluded by pivoting into an attack on his democratic opponent Hillary Clinton and her husband, Bill, who faced impeachment proceedings as president for lying over his involvement with the White House intern, Monica Lewinsky.
"I've said some foolish things but there's a big difference between the words and actions of other people. Bill Clinton has actually abused women and Hillary has bullied, attacked, shamed and intimidated his victims."
Earlier he had describing the filmed conversation from 2005 as "locker room banter". He added that Bill Clinton, the former president, had said "far worse".
Hillary Clinton, Mr Trump's rival for the White House, said: "This is horrific. We cannot allow this man to become president."
Her condemnation was echoed by a host of senior Republicans, including Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the House and most senior Republican who ran as vice-president in 2012. He said he was "sickened" by what he heard and banned him from a political event in Wisconsin.
Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, slammed the party's presidential candidate in a statement on Friday night: "No woman should ever be described in these terms or talked about in this manner. Ever."
A source from the Trump campaign told CNN that the timing of the release of the video - two days before the second presidential debate - could be a "death knell" for his campaign.
In the video, Mr Trump is recorded talking about an unnamed woman to Billy Bush, who was a host for Access Hollywood, a TV entertainment show.
“I moved on her and I failed. I’ll admit it,” Mr Trump says. “I did try and f--- her. She was married.
“And I moved on her very heavily... I moved on her like a b----, but I couldn’t get there. And she was married."
The footage was taken several months after Mr Trump married his third wife, Melania Trump, in January 2005. It was not clear when the specific incident that Mr Trump and Bush were discussing took place.
Mr Trump and Bush then discuss the woman they are about to meet - Arianne Zucker, an actress. Mr Trump was on set to perform a cameo in the soap opera, Days of Our Lives.
“Your girl’s hot as s---, in the purple,” says Bush.
“Whoa!” Mr Trump says. “Whoa!”
“I’ve gotta use some tic tacs, just in case I start kissing her. You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful - I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.”
“And when you’re a star they let you do it,” Mr Trump says. “You can do anything.”
“Whatever you want,” says another voice, apparently Bush’s.
“Grab them by the p----,” Trump says. “You can do anything.”
It is not suggested that Zucker had any relationship with Mr Trump.
Mr Trump said in a statement to The Washington Post: “This was locker room banter, a private conversation that took place many years ago. Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course - not even close. I apologise if anyone was offended.”
In his statement, Mr Ryan said: "I am sickened by what I heard today. Women are to be championed and revered, not objectified. I hope Mr Trump treats this situation with the seriousness it deserves and works to demonstrate to the country that he has greater respect for women than this clip suggests.
"In the meantime, he is no longer attending tomorrow's event in Wisconsin," he added, referring to a Republican Fall Fest in the town of Elkhorn that Mr Trump had been scheduled to attend with Mr Ryan and other top Republican elected officials from the state.
Kelly Ayotte, a Republican senator in New Hampshire, said Mr Trump's lewd comments were "totally inappropriate and offensive".
Mr Trump has been embroiled in several sexism rows during his presidential bid.
Following a Republican debate in August 2015, he referred to the Fox News host and debate anchor Megyn Kelly as a "bimbo". He then suggested her questioning was a result of her menstruating.
Months later, he offered a half-hearted apology to Kelly, but still managed to offend. "Did I say that? Excuse me," he said, adding: "Over your life, Megyn, you've been called a lot worse, wouldn't you say?"
In March this year, he caused outage after advocating "some form of punishment" for women who have abortions if the practice is banned.
During the first presidential debate last week, Mrs Clinton brought up the claims of Alicia Machado, the former Miss Universe winner and Venezuelan actress, who was apparently referred to regularly as "Miss Piggy" by Mr Trump.
NBC Universal, which produces Access Hollywood, did not comment.