‘I Pledge to Be a Better Man': Trump Apologizes for Lewd Comments, Vows to Stay in the Race

Trump closes the video by suggesting he'll raise Bill Clinton's affairs again in the coming days

A defiant Donald Trump insisted Saturday he would "never" abandon his White House bid, facing an intensifying backlash from Republican leaders across the nation who called on him to quit the race following the release of his vulgar and sexually charged comments caught on tape.

With Republicans from Utah to Alabama to New Hampshire turning their back on their nominee, GOP loyalists like House Speaker Paul Ryan refused to give up on Trump, who has long faced criticism from within his own party, but never to this degree. Frustration turned to panic across the GOP with early voting already underway in some states and Election Day one month away.

"As disappointed as I've been with his antics throughout this campaign, I thought supporting the nominee was the best thing for our country and our party," Alabama Rep. Martha Roby said in a statement. "Now, it is abundantly clear that the best thing for our country and our party is for Trump to step aside and allow a responsible, respectable Republican to lead the ticket."

Trump declared he would not yield the GOP nomination under any circumstances. "Zero chance I'll quit," he told The Wall Street Journal. He told The Washington Post: "I'd never withdraw. I've never withdrawn in my life." He claimed to have "tremendous support."

Under fire for lewd comments he made about women in 2005, Trump apologized in a videotaped statement released early Saturday and pledged "to be a better man." 

"Anyone that knows me knows these words don't reflect who I am. I said it, I was wrong and I apologize," Trump said in a video posted on his Facebook page. "I pledge to be a better man tomorrow."

Yet he also defiantly dismissed the revelations as "nothing more than a distraction" from a decade ago, and argued his words were not nearly as egregious as former President Bill Clinton's marital affairs.

"I've said some foolish things," the Republican presidential nominee said in the 90-second statement. "But there's a big difference between the words and actions of other people. Bill Clinton has actually abused women."

Turning to his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, Trump accused her of having "bullied, attacked, shamed and intimidated" her husband's "victims."

In the 2005 recording, obtained by NBC News and The Washington Post, the former reality TV star describes trying to have sex with a married woman and brags about women letting him kiss and grab them because he is famous.

On the tape, Trump is caught on a live microphone while talking with Billy Bush, at the time a correspondent on "Access Hollywood." The candidate is heard saying "I did try and f--- her. She was married." He also uses graphic terms to describe the woman's body and says he frequently tries to kiss beautiful women.

"Access Hollywood" said an Associated Press story about Trump's lewd behind-the-scenes comments as star of "The Apprentice" led it to dig through its archives and turn up the previously un-aired footage from 2005. It was recorded during a bus ride while Trump was on his way to tape an episode of the soap opera "Days of Our Lives."

"Access Hollywood" is owned and distributed by NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC News and MSNBC.

Trump initially tried to head off some of the damage by issuing a half-hearted apology shortly after the video was released Friday afternoon, saying he was sorry "if anyone was offended."

Only hours later, after the scope of the damage became clear, did he release the video statement.

Trump appears alone in the video and appears to be reading off a script. He closes the video by suggesting he'll raise Bill Clinton's affairs again in the coming days.

"See you at the debate," he says.

By the time Trump posted his video apology, scores of Republicans had begun distancing themselves from the party’s nominee — some rescinding their endorsements or calling for him to resign. Among them was Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who called Trump's words "some of the most abhorrent and offensive comments that you can possibly imagine."

Trump's running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, was "beside himself" and his wife was furious, according to a person close to the couple, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to share the private discussion. In public, Pence ignored questions shouted by reporters in Rossford, Ohio, where he was campaigning with his daughter.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said in a statement that he was "sickened by what I heard today" and added tartly that Trump was "no longer attending" a joint campaign appearance set for Saturday in the senator's home state of Wisconsin.

Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus condemned Trump's derogatory comments in a curt statement: "No woman should ever be described in these terms or talked about in this manner. Ever."

Clinton seized on her rival's comments, calling them "horrific." She said in a Twitter message: "We cannot allow this man to become president."

But she had her own problems Friday with revelations.

The WikiLeaks organization posted what it said were thousands of emails from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, including some with excerpts from speeches she gave to Wall Street executives and others — speeches she has declined to release despite demands from Trump.

The excerpts include Clinton suggesting that Wall Street insiders are best equipped to help reform the financial sector. She also says that presidential candidates for both parties must have tens of millions in contributions from New York to mount competitive national campaigns.

Trump has insisted that she is too cozy with Wall Street to reform it. The Clinton campaign said it will not confirm the authenticity of the alleged Podesta emails.

The revelations came two days before Trump and Clinton are to meet in Sunday's second presidential debate, with the Republican urgently in need of a strong performance. After his uneven showing in the first contest, public opinion polls have showed Clinton pulling ahead in nearly all battleground states, some of which are already in the midst of early voting.

Trump advisers planned for him to spend a quiet Friday preparing for the debate and meeting with border security officials. But the day was quickly consumed by a series of controversies, including Trump's unsubstantiated claim about immigrants in the U.S. illegally voting in the election and his questioning the innocence of five black teenagers exonerated in a 1989 rape case.

Then, there were new signs of unusual links between Trump and Russia. For the first time, the U.S. publicly blamed the Russian government for hacking the Democratic National Committee and accused Moscow of trying to interfere with the American election. Diplomats also told the AP that Russia had lodged a formal complaint last month with the United Nations over a top U.N. official's condemnations of Trump.

Also in the mix Friday: New questions about the Trump campaign's finances. With roughly a month until Election Day, the campaign has yet to schedule the $100 million in television advertising that his campaign boasted about just two weeks ago. 

While Trump has survived numerous controversies that would have sunk other candidates, Friday's developments come at a crucial moment in the race. Less than five weeks from Election Day, Trump still needs to expand his support to overtake Clinton, and is struggling in particular with minorities and women.

The unearthed video of Trump's 2005 comments seemed likely to make any effort to win over women exceedingly more difficult.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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