Donald Trump was hit by an outraged backlash from allies and opponents alike after a tape emerged of the Republican candidate bragging about using his fame to try and “fuck” women and groping them without waiting for their consent.
“When you’re a star they let you do it,” Trump says in the recording, which wasobtained by the Washington Post and released on Friday. “You can do anything.”
Trump, in a 2005 conversation with a television host that was caught on a live microphone, describes a failed seduction, saying: “I did try and fuck her, she was married,” and says that when he meets beautiful women he feels able to “grab them by the pussy”.
“You can do anything,” he tells Billy Bush, the TV host who is a cousin of George W and Jeb Bush.
On Friday night, amid a storm of condemnation and disavowals by other Republicans, Trump released a video statement in which he made an almost unprecedented apology.
“Anyone who knows me knows these words don’t reflect who I am. I said it. I am wrong. I apologize.
“I’ve never said I am a perfect person, nor pretended to be someone that I am not. I’ve said and done things I regret and the words released today on this more than decade-old video are one of them.” But he then went on the offensive. “I’ve said some foolish things but there is a big difference between the words and actions of other people. Bill Clinton has actually abused women and Hillary has bullied, attacked, shamed and intimidated his victims.
“We will discuss this more in the coming days. See you at the debate on Sunday.”
Earlier on Friday, Trump had dismissed the conversation as “locker room banter” and said former president Bill Clinton “has said far worse to me on the golf course – not even close”. “I apologize if anyone was offended,” he said.
Hillary Clinton, the Democratic candidate for president, said via Twitter: “This is horrific. We cannot allow this man to become president.”
Meanwhile the list of Republicans withdrawing their support from Trump was growing.
Trump had been scheduled to appear with the House speaker, Paul Ryan, at a Republican event in Wisconsin on Saturday, his first appearance on the campaign trail with the most powerful elected Republican official. But Ryan said late on Friday that Trump would no longer be in attendance.
Ryan released a statement on Friday night saying: “I am sickened by what I heard today. Women are to be championed and revered, not objectified. I hope Mr Trump treats this situation with the seriousness it deserves and works to demonstrate to the country that he has greater respect for women than this clip suggests.”
On Friday night Jason Chaffetz, the chair of the House oversight committee, declared that he would not vote for Trump. The Utah congressman joined his state’s governor, Gary Herbert, in abandoning Trump in the aftermath of his remarks.
Chaffetz, who sounded beside himself with anger in an interview with CNN, said he could not face his wife and 15-year-old daughter if he continued to support Trump. He said Trump had not properly apologised for his lewd remarks and had only expressed regret for “getting caught”.
Mike Coffman, a congressman from a swing district who had already declined to endorse Trump, directly called on the Republican nominee to drop out. “For the good of the country, and to give the Republicans a chance of defeating Hillary Clinton, Mr Trump should step aside.”
After the controversy first erupted on Friday, Trump released a statement saying this his running mate, Mike Pence, would be “representing me tomorrow in Wisconsin” while he was in New York preparing for Sunday’s second presidential debate with Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus, New Jersey governor Chris Christie and Alabama senator Jeff Sessions.
Earlier, Priebus had issued a statement about Trump’s remarks in the leaked recording, saying: “No woman should ever be described in these terms or talked about in this manner. Ever.”
Trump’s remarks are the latest in a series of statements about women that have sent him plummeting to near-historic unfavorability ratings with female voters. Arecent poll from the Economist/YouGov showed that 68% of female voters had either a somewhat unfavorable or very unfavorable view of Trump.
The released audio, accompanied by a video, was apparently recorded during an interview with Access Hollywood host Bush in September 2005, eight months after Trump married the model Melania Knauss, his third wife.
Bush, now a co-host on NBC’s Today show, apologized later on Friday, saying in a statement released to Variety he was “embarrassed and ashamed” by something that “happened 11 years ago” when he “was younger, less mature, and acted foolishly in playing along. I’m very sorry.”
Trump and Bush had been on a bus headed to the set of the soap opera Days of Our Lives, in which Trump was set to make a cameo. The media obtained by the Post included audio from inside the bus and video shot as the bus arrived on set.
At the beginning of the audio, Trump relays to Bush a past attempt to seduce a married woman. “I moved on her and I failed – I’ll admit it,” he says, continuing: “I did try and fuck her, she was married. And I moved on her very heavily.
“In fact, I took her out furniture shopping. She wanted to get some furniture. I said: ‘I’ll show you where they have some nice furniture.’ I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there. And she was married. Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phoney tits and everything. She’s totally changed her look.”
Trump and Bush then apparently see actress Arianne Zucker outside the bus. “Your girl’s hot as shit, in the purple,” Bush says.
“Whoa!” Trump responds. “Whoa! I’ve gotta use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her. 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.”
“Whatever you want,” Bush replies.
“Grab them by the pussy,” Trump replies. “You can do anything.”
After commenting on the legs of a woman walking near the bus, Bush and Trump then emerge in view of the Access Hollywood cameras, to greet Zucker.
Throughout the presidential campaign, Trump has made controversial statements about women or had previous remarks brought to light by opponents. In last month’s first presidential debate, he came under attack from Hillary Clinton for calling a Venezuelan winner of the Miss Universe competition “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeping”. In response, Trump used Twitter to falsely claim that the woman in question, Alicia Machado, had made a sex tape.
In August 2015 Trump insinuated that Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly asked him tough questions in the first primary debate because she was menstruating. He also attacked a rival, Carly Fiorina, as being unattractive.
In March 2016 he tweeted: “The media is so after me on women[.] Wow, this is a tough business. Nobody has more respect for women than Donald Trump!”
A number of Trump campaign members have problematic histories with women. One adviser, former Fox News chief executive Roger Ailes, was this year forced to step down from the network after reports of sexual harassment allegations spanning decades. Trump’s campaign chief, Steve Bannon, faced domestic violence charges in 1996.
On Friday websites reported that when news of the 2005 recording broke, Trump running mate Mike Pence – who was eating a chili dog with his daughter at a campaign stop in Toledo, Ohio – abruptly dropped the pool of reporters who were following him, thereby avoiding any questions on the matter.
The Pence campaign team did not respond to a request for comment.
Ted Cruz, the Texas senator who finished second in the primary and who recently, having attacked Trump fiercely over his character, endorsed the businessman,wrote on Twitter late Friday: “These comments are disturbing and inappropriate, there is simply no excuse for them.”
Florida senator Marco Rubio, who also ran for president and subsequently endorsed Trump, joined others in criticizing the remarks: “Donald’s comments were vulgar, egregious & impossible to justify.”
As Democrats escalated pressure to disavow Trump, other prominent Republicans issued statements condemning the remarks, in addition to Ryan. . Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said late Friday that Trump’s comments were “repugnant, and unacceptable in any circumstance” and that he believed “Trump needs to apologize directly to women and girls everywhere”.
Meanwhile, Republican senators facing tough re-election battles – including John McCain of Arizona, Rob Portman of Ohio, and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire – issued statements condemning the remarks, but did not withdraw their support.
McCain said in a short statement: “He alone bears the burden of his conduct and alone should suffer the consequences.”
But Republican governor Gary Herbert of Utah did rescind his endorsement. “Donald Trump’s statements are beyond offensive & despicable,” he tweeted. While I cannot vote for Hillary Clinton, I will not vote for Trump. #utpol”
The Illinois senator Mark Kirk, who has vowed not to support Trump, went further, saying on Twitter that Trump “should drop out” and the Republican party “should engage rules for emergency replacement.”