In a video released on Facebook early Saturday morning, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump apologized for comments he made in a video released on Friday, pledged to do better, and attacked his opponent, Hillary Clinton, and her husband.
“I’ve never said I’m a perfect person, nor pretended to be a person I’m not,” Trump said. “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. Anyone who knows me knows these words don’t reflect who I am. I said it, I was wrong, and I apologize.”
Trump said his campaigning had changed him, and he pledged to “be a better man tomorrow” and “never let you down.” He said the video was “nothing more than a distraction from the important issues we’re facing today.” And crucially, he turned to an attack on Clinton and her husband.
“I’ve said some foolish things, but there’s a big difference between the words and action of other people,” he said. “Bill Clinton has actually abused women, and Hillary has bullied, attacked, shamed and intimidated his.”
In a rebuke to Republicans calling for him to step down, or demanding the party explore options to remove him from the ballot, he closed by saying, “We will discuss this more in the coming days. See you at the debate on Sunday.”
The Republican presidential nominee faces the most serious crisis of a tumultuous presidency this weekend, after The Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold published a video in which Trump bragged about groping women. “Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything” if you’re a star, Trump said in the video, which dates to 2005. Notably, Trump’s statement does not contain a word of apology towards the women he was referring to.
The video elicited a harsh and immediate backlash, not only from Democrats and nonpartisan commentators, but also from Republicans, who reacted with disgust. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, a Trump supporter, called his 2005 comments “inexcusable,” House Speaker Paul Ryan disinvited Trump from a joint campaign appearance on Sunday, and Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio also criticized Trump, though none of them withdrew their support for his campaign.
Trump’s apology may fall short of convincing his doubters. For one thing, he has a long record of misogynistic comments, and he also faces accusations of abusing women. Late Friday, The New York Times published a column by Nicholas Kristof in which Jill Harth, a former business associate, recounted allegations of abuse at Trump’s hands (Harth’s statements were previously reported in July by The Guardian).
His attack on the Clintons represents a Hail Mary attack. Trump hinted that he might dredge up the Clintons’ past, including Bill Clinton’s affairs, ahead of the first presidential debate, but he then did not. Many Republicans have warned Trump away from such a line of attack, fearing that it could make Hillary Clinton appear to be a sympathetic figure, and noting that her popularity soared to a record high during the Monica Lewinsky controversy.
If Trump’s late-night statement was intended to dampen the controversy, there’s a real chance that it will do the opposite, instead throwing fuel on the fire. While it is highly unusual for Trump to apologize for anything, his stand of defiance, and turn toward attacking the Clintons, will only further rattle Republicans who have questioned his judgment and viability. With just a month to go before the election, the strangest race of modern times has somehow gotten even stranger.