Donald Trump apologized late Friday night for bragging about groping women, but dismissed the uproar over a newly released 2005 recording of his lewd remarks as “nothing more than a distraction.”
“Anyone who knows me knows these words don’t reflect who I am,” said Trump, whose frequent derogatory comments about women have proved a major liability. “I said it, I was wrong, and I apologize.”
In a video posted on his Facebook page, Trump also played down the significance of his coarse remarks, including a boast that he could grab women by the crotch because he was a star.
“Let’s be honest — we’re living in the real world,” Trump said. “This is nothing more than a distraction from the important issues we’re facing today.”
Trump’s statement came hours after the Washington Post’s release of the 2005 recording threw the Republican Party into disarray.
GOP leaders harshly condemned their party’s presidential nominee, who was already deeply unpopular among women. The extraordinary spectacle threatened to doom Trump’s prospects in the Nov. 8 election.
It also illuminated Republican fears that Trump is harming not just himself but also many other GOP candidates, jeopardizing the party's control of Congress.
“These comments are repugnant, and unacceptable in any circumstance,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who bemoaned Trump’s “utter lack of respect for women shown in his comments on that tape.”
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, who said he was sickened by Trump’s demeaning of women, had planned to campaign with him in his home state of Wisconsin on Saturday, but rescinded Trump’s invitation.
The congressional leaders stopped short of withdrawing their support for Trump, but a few other Republicans pulled their endorsements.
“I’m not going to put my good name and reputation and my family behind Donald Trump for president when he acts like this,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah). “I just can’t do it.”
Jon Huntsman, a former Republican governor of Utah, urged Trump to drop out of the race and let his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, jump to the top of the ticket, a suggestion Trump rejected.
Even Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who was immersed in responding to Hurricane Matthew, took time to assail Trump.
“I'm not following politics closely right now, but this is terrible,” said Scott, who leads a pro-Trump super PAC. “I don't agree with anyone talking like this about anyone, ever.”
Mitt Romney, the GOP nominee in 2012, was caustic in a statement on Twitter: “Hitting on married women? Condoning assault? Such vile degradations demean our wives and daughters and corrupt America’s face to the world.” Romney has spoken out against Trump for months.
(Warning: Video contains graphic language.)
Trump is heard in the video recording talking with Billy Bush of “Access Hollywood” as they were riding a bus to the set of the soap opera “Days of our Lives” for a Trump cameo.
Trump tells Bush and other men on the bus that he tried to seduce a married woman. “I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there,” he says. “Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything. She’s totally changed her looks.”
Trump admits that he forces himself upon women.
“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,” he says. “And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything.”
When the Post story broke, Trump released a statement saying, “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 apologize if anyone was offended.”
After hours of weathering denunciations by fellow Republicans, Trump posted his video on Facebook. It included a renewed attack on the former president and Hillary Clinton, Trump’s Democratic rival.
“Bill Clinton has actually abused women, and Hillary has bullied, attacked shamed and intimidated his victims,” Trump said without specifying his allegations. “We will discuss this more in the coming days.”
Trump has vacillated on whether he would bring up the Clintons’ marital history in Sunday’s debate, first saying that he probably would, then saying he would not.
For her part, Clinton called Trump’s remarks “horrific.”
Times staff writers Kurtis Lee and Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report.