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Trump apologises for lewd remarks about women, Republicans urge he step down

Is this, finally, the controversy that sends Donald Trump’s turbulent and contentious presidential campaign spiralling out of control? A video in which the Republican Party nominee is heard to make lewd and sexually predatory comments about women has aroused widespread revulsion in the United States, and prompted a number of prominent members of his own party to demand that he step aside.

us presidential election Updated: Oct 09, 2016 08:31 IST
Yashwant Raj
Republican US presidential nominee Donald Trump is seen in a video screengrab as he apologizes for lewd comments on women.
Republican US presidential nominee Donald Trump is seen in a video screengrab as he apologizes for lewd comments on women.(Reuters)

Is this, finally, the controversy that sends Donald Trump’s turbulent and contentious presidential campaign spiralling out of control? A video in which the Republican Party nominee is heard to make lewd and sexually predatory comments about women has aroused widespread revulsion in the United States, and prompted a number of prominent members of his own party to demand that he step aside.

Trump responded with a grudging apology that satisfied none of his critics, and indicated he will step up his attacks on his rival, Democrat Hillary Clinton, on the sordid sexual history of her husband, former president Bill Clinton.

He apologised twice within the span of a few hours, saying in a videotaped message: “Anyone who knows me knows these words don’t reflect who I am…I said it, I was wrong, and I apologise.”

Clinton, who called the remarks “horrific”, would bring them up at the second presidential debate on Sunday, to reprise her attack on Trump over his treatment of women, a persisting fault-line in his campaign.

There was talk of this being a “breaking point” for Trump, but he has rebounded from campaign-derailing stumbles before, on the strength of what pundits have called his “calcified” support base which is with him no matter what.

There were calls from Republicans, including Senators Mark Kirk and Mike Lee and Congress members Barbara Comstock and Mike Coffman, for Trump to leave the race. Jason Chaffetz, a powerful congressman who investigated Clinton over the attack on a US mission in Benghazi, withdrew his endorsement of the nominee.

Coffman said: “For the good of the country, and to give Republicans a chance at defeating Hillary Clinton, Mr Trump should step aside…Mr Trump should put the country first and do the right thing.”

Kirk tweeted Trump should drop out of the race and the Republican Party should “engage rules for (an) emergency replacement”.

And “sickened” by the remarks, Speaker Paul Ryan, the senior-most elected Republican, disinvited Trump from a joint appearance at a political event scheduled for Saturday. He was so appalled he didn’t even wait for Trump’s apology.

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The recording, actually on video with the most objectionable portions being off camera, was done by a crew from the show Access Hollywood, as Trump waited in a bus outside a studio with Billy Bush, a reporter and President George W Bush’s cousin.

The recording, first released by The Washington Post, starts with Trump talking about a failed attempt to seduce a woman, subsequently identified as former Access Hollywood co-host Nancy O’Dell. “I moved on her, and I failed. But I’ll admit it,” he can be heard saying clearly.

“I did try and f*** her. She was married,” said Trump, who was then 56 and married to his third and current wife Melania.

At this point in the conversation, it was time for them to disembark from their bus. As an actress from the show they were to shoot for approached the bus to receive them, they continued the conversation.

“I’ve got to use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her,” Trump said. “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,” Trump said. “You can do anything.”

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In his first statement on the video, Trump tried to dismiss the remarks as “locker-room banter”, and said Bill Clinton had made “far worse” remarks. He also said, unconvincingly, “I apologise if anyone was offended”.

But the backlash was swift and brutal.

“This is horrific. We cannot allow this man to become president,” Hillary Clinton tweeted.

Republicans were just as harsh. “There are no excuses for Donald Trump’s offensive and demeaning comments,” said Senator John McCain, who has endorsed Trump. “He alone bears the burden of his conduct and alone should suffer the consequences.”

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