Washington - Donald Trump's lewd videotaped remarks about women threw his White House campaign, and the Republican Party as a whole, in crisis just 30 days from the election Saturday, on the eve of his second debate with rival Hillary Clinton.
Trump nevertheless rejected growing calls from elected members of his own party that he step aside in the presidential race over the 2005 remarks, insisting there is "zero chance I'll quit." Trump's own wife Melania said she was offended by her husband's comments, which were caught on a hot mic just months after the two married - the real estate magnate's third marriage - boasting about his ability to grope women as he pleases.
But she urged American voters to accept his apology and support him.
"The words my husband used are unacceptable and offensive to me. This does not represent the man that I know," Melania Trump said in a statement.
"He has the heart and mind of a leader. I hope people will accept his apology, as I have, and focus on the important issues facing our nation and the world." The videotape, released Friday by The Washington Post, forced a rare apology from a campaign that was already peppered by controversies over Trump's treatment of women, and set off an uproar in his Republican Party.
The Republican National Committee appeared to have halted part of its "Victory" program to elect Trump, with the RNC asking a vendor to "put a hold" on mail production, the Politico news website reported.
But Trump stood defiant Saturday in the face of calls by some Republicans that he quit the race, telling The Wall Street Journal: "I never, ever give up." He called the disclosure a "distraction," defiantly attacking the Clintons for husband Bill Clinton's past infidelities, and hinting strongly he would say more on the topic in Sunday's debate in St Louis, Missouri.
Trump denied his campaign was in crisis and predicted the controversy would blow over.
"The media and establishment want me out of the race so badly - I WILL NEVER DROP OUT OF THE RACE, WILL NEVER LET MY SUPPORTERS DOWN! #MAGA," he said on Twitter.
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The hashtag refers to his campaign slogan: "Make America great again." Republican reaction to the videotape came fast and furious, with some calling on the bombastic billionaire to step aside, or allow running mate Mike Pence to take the top of the ticket.
Others withdrew their endorsement without explicitly stating whether they would vote for him if he stays.
Pence, the governor of Indiana, said that as a husband and father he was "offended" by Trump's remarks.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, the top Republican officeholder, said he was "sickened" by Trump's comments, and disinvited him from a political event in Wisconsin. Pence was to go in Trump's place, but he canceled without explanation.
By Saturday, at least 10 senators, a dozen members of the House of Representatives and three governors - all Republicans - had called on Trump to bow out of the White House race. Others withdrew their endorsements.
John McCain, the Arizona senator and 2008 presidential nominee with whom Trump has sparred repeatedly, said "Donald Trump's behavior... make(s) it impossible to continue to offer even conditional support for his candidacy." McCain ruled out voting for Clinton, saying he would instead "write in the name of some good conservative Republican who is qualified to be president." Last year, Trump insisted the celebrated veteran, who spent five years as a prisoner during the Vietnam War, "is not a war hero." Governor John Kasich of Ohio, a former Trump adversary in the Republican primaries, said Trump's comments were "disgusting" and that "our country deserves better." "I respectfully ask you, with all due respect, to step aside," urged Utah Senator Mike Lee.
Illinois Senator Mark Kirk called for an "emergency replacement." With the November 8 elections one month away and Clinton leading in the polls by nearly five percentage points nationally, the latest uproar has plunged Trump in the deepest crisis of his turbulent campaign.
He had already been seriously hurt by a sloppy performance in his first debate with Clinton on September 26, a damaging Twitter war against a former Miss Universe and reports he may have paid no income taxes for 18 years.
Clinton, who is seeking to become the nation's first female commander-in-chief, is almost certain to call out Trump about the videotape during the debate.
"This is horrific," she said on Twitter. "We cannot allow this man to become president." In the video, Trump uses vulgar and predatory language as he describes hitting on a married woman and grabbing women's crotches.
The three-minute video captures Trump reacting to an actress he was about to meet as he arrived on the set of daytime soap opera "Days of Our Lives," for the taping of a segment in which he was to have a cameo appearance, the Post said.
"I've gotta use some Tic Tacs (breath mints), just in case I start kissing her," Trump says to Billy Bush, then host of the "Access Hollywood" show about celebrities.
"You know I'm automatically attracted to beautiful. I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet," he says.
"I don't even wait. And when you're a star they let you do it. You can do anything." Trump also is heard bragging about trying to have sex with a woman he knew to be married.
Tic Tac rebuked the comments, saying: "Tic Tac respects all women. We find the recent statements and behavior completely inappropriate and unacceptable." The statement was an echo of another by Skittles after Trump's son Donald Trump Jr posted a message on Twitter comparing Syrian refugees to a bowl of the candy that included a few that "would kill you."