Donald Trump dismissed his predatory remarks about groping women as “locker room talk,” and took a swipe at Hillary Clinton’s husband Bill over past sexual misconduct in a fiery second US presidential debate on Sunday.
The Democrat Hillary Clinton, facing a deeply wounded candidate with one month to go before Election Day, pushed back by saying Trump’s lewd comments, caught on a hot mic, merely showed his true self.
With tens of millions of Americans tuning in for the televised showdown, the Republican nominee may have been expected to show contrition as he seeks to move beyond the crisis triggered by the tape’s release.
Instead Trump levelled a blunt attack at former president Clinton — present in the audience — asserting that he has a history of abusing women, and inviting several of his accusers to attend the debate.
“If you look at Bill Clinton, far worse,” Trump insisted. “Mine are words, his was action,” he said, claiming that there has “never been anybody in the history of politics in this nation that’s been so abusive to women.”
Clinton refused to take the bait, saying she took the advice that “when they go low, you go high.”
In the tense opening minutes of the showdown, Trump also clashed with Clinton on her private use of emails while secretary of state, warning that if he becomes president he will order the Justice Department to launch a special investigation into the issue.
When Clinton responded that it was “awfully good” that someone with Trump’s temperament was not leading the nation, he shot back: “Because you’d be in jail.”
Trump is facing a make-or-break moment after his lewd boasts, which he made in 2005 and which became public Friday, brought sweeping condemnation from within his own party and calls for him to step aside.
Pressed by the debate moderator who asserted that he had bragged of sexually assaulting women, the billionaire Republican lashed out:
“Certainly I’m not proud of it. But this is locker room talk.”
Trump’s Democratic rival fired back that he has spent much of his presidential campaign denigrating women and minorities.
“This is who Donald Trump is, and the question for us, the question our country must answer is that this is not who we are,” she said.
– ‘Desperation’ –
With his campaign in chaos, Trump has stepped up his attacks on former president Clinton, asserting that he has a history of abusing women.
In an extraordinary step, Trump convened a press event just moments before the debate that included several women who accuse him of sexual harassment and rape.
Introduced by Trump as “very courageous women,” his invited speakers included Paula Jones, a former government employee in Arkansas who sued Bill Clinton for sexual harassment, and Juanita Broaddrick, also of Arkansas, who claims that Clinton raped her in 1978.
The debate came at perhaps the most pivotal moment of the 2016 presidential race, with Trump needing a dramatic boost if he is to claw back ground against Clinton, who has surged in the polls since their first debate on September 26.
Clinton’s campaign has dismissed Trump’s sensational targeting of Bill Clinton as an “act of desperation.”
“Republicans are leaving you,” Clinton told him on the debate stage, saying his campaign was “exploding.”