Trump vows not to quit race over lewd talk about women

PHOTO: AFP

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.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in presidential debates

  • Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton head into a crucial presidential debate on Monday (Oct 10).
  • The debate comes as Mr Trump's White House campaign in chaos over his lewd boasts about groping women.
  • Trump and Clinton clashed in deeply personal terms, accusing each other of mistreating women, and signaling that the final month of the race.
  • The debate was moderated by Anderson Cooper and Martha Raddatz.
  • A defiant Donald Trump on Sunday dismissed as "locker room talk" a controversy over a video in which he made obscene comments about groping women.
  • He also said, if he won the White House, he would put Hillary Clinton in jail for operating a private email server while U.S. secretary of state.
  • In a contentious town-hall debate, Trump said he would appoint a special prosecutor to look into his Democratic rival’s email use because she had endangered national security while she was Secretary of State.
  • The 90-minute debate got off to a chilly start when the two candidates for the Nov. 8 election greeted each other without the traditional handshake.
  • It quickly turned into an acrimonious discussion of a 2005 video that emerged on Friday in which Trump was heard using vulgar language and talking about groping women without consent.
  • He said he was embarrassed by the video but dismissed it as "locker room talk," and added that President Bill Clinton had done worse to women.
  • Clinton said Trump's comments showed he was unfit for the White House."“He has said the video doesn’t represent who he is but I think it’s clear to anyone who heard it that it represents exactly who he is," Clinton said.
  • The debate's town hall-style format, with undecided voters posing half the questions and the debate’s two moderators posing the others, allowed the candidates to move freely around the stage and address the questioners directly.
  • Just a few hours before the key debate, Trump convened a meeting of women who accused Mrs Clinton's husband, former president Bill Clinton, of sexual misconduct.
  • The women were Ms Paula Jones, who has accused Mr Clinton of propositioning her and exposing himself; Ms Juanita Broaddrick, who claims he sexually assaulted her; Ms Kathy Shelton, who says Mrs Clinton defended a man who victimised her; and Ms Kathleen Willey, who claims Mr Clinton groped her.
  • None of the accusations was new and Mr Clinton was never charged in any of the cases.
  • All four were at the debate.
  • Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump face off for the first time on Monday (Sept 26) in a high stakes presidential debate that could shift the course of the neck-and-neck 2016 campaign for the White House.
  • The highly anticipated clash between the Democratic former secretary of state and Republican real estate tycoon has generated wide interest nationally and internationally six weeks before the Nov 8 election.
  • Opinion polls show the two candidates in a very tight race, with the latest Reuters/Ipsos polling showing Clinton ahead by 4 percentage points, with 41 per cent of likely voters.
  • The 90-minute debate, set to start at 9 p.m. EDT, could sway undecided and independent voters who have yet to make up their minds as well as voters from both parties who have tuned out the election until now.
  • A second Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Monday showed half of America's likely voters would rely on the debates to help them make their choice.
  • More than half, 61 per cent, were hoping for a civil debate and were not interested in the bitterness shown on the campaign trail.
  • The size of the television-viewing audience is expected to challenge the record of 80 million Americans who watched 1980's encounter between Democratic President Jimmy Carter and Republican Ronald Reagan. Some commentators forecast Super Bowl-sized viewership of about 100 million people.
  • By contrast with the single-party debates held during the Republican and Democratic state nominating contests, the audience will be asked to remain silent and not applaud or respond to the candidates' remarks. The debate will be divided into six 15-minute segments.
  • Clinton won a coin toss and chose to take the first question. She will have two minutes to answer, after which Trump will be given equal time.
  • Trump will then be given the first question at the beginning of the next segment.
  • Markets have tended to see Clinton as the candidate of the status quo, while few are sure what a Trump presidency might mean for US foreign policy, trade and the domestic economy.
  • The volatile Trump, a former reality television star, will have an opportunity to show a depth and steadiness worthy of a commander in chief, while the cautious Clinton, a former US senator and first lady, will have a chance to connect directly with voters who view her as too secretive, strategists said.
  • Trump, a political newcomer who has at times shown more affinity for put-downs than policy, could benefit from lower voter expectations. "There is no question it's a lower bar for Trump," said Dan Schnur, a former Republican strategist and now a political scientist at the University of Southern California. "He doesn't have to be brilliant, he just can't be too bombastic."
  • Trump dominated the crowded Republican debates with rapid-fire attacks on his rivals but has no experience in a one-on-one debate setting that requires more prolonged discussion of issues.
  • Clinton has participated in many one-on-one debates on the national stage: with Obama during her unsuccessful 2008 presidential campaign and with US Senator Bernie Sanders in the Democratic nominating race earlier this year.
  • Clinton's camp has done its best to raise the bar for Trump, and in television interviews on Monday both campaigns tried to frame expectations.
  • "What we don't want to have is some sort of double standard where Donald Trump can get the most-improved award, but Hillary Clinton ... is getting judged on the fine points of policy," Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook told NBC News, calling Trump "an entertainer."
  • The role of moderator Lester Holt of NBC News also came under scrutiny before the debate, with the Clinton campaign and her Democratic supporters urging him to correct Trump if he makes false claims.
  • Trump also has tried to influence Holt and moderators of the other showdowns with Clinton, saying the candidates should be the ones to correct the record.

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.        

Read also: US Elections 2016: Anything can happen

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."

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