Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on Friday grappled with a new bombshell after The Washington Post published a 2005 Video in which Trump recounted in vulgar terms how he tried to have sex with an unnamed married woman.
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Trump has previously come under fire for sexist and demeaning language he has used to describe women, including from Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. The new audio provides Clinton with powerful ammunition just ahead of the second presidential debate, on Sunday night.
In the recorded conversation in 2005, Trump was wearing a microphone and chatting with Billy Bush, the host of NBC's "Access Hollywood," ahead of a segment they were about to tape.
"I did try and f--- her. She was married," Trump said. "I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn't get there."
Trump talked about his attraction to beautiful women. "I just start kissing them," he said.
"And when you're a star they let you do it," he said.
"Grab them by the p---y. You can do anything."
Trump, who has brought up former President Bill Clinton's infidelities as a criticism of Hillary Clinton, calling her a "total enabler," shrugged off the audio.
"This was locker room banter, a private conversation that took place many years ago," Trump said in a statement.
"Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course - not even close. I apologize if anyone was offended," Trump said.
The candidate then released a video statement in which he expressely apologized for the incident and pledged to "be a better man." He also, however, called the release of the video a "distraction from the important issues we're facing today," before accusing Bill Clinton of abusing women.
Trump's leaked comments spurred a flood of indignation and came at what some have seen as a potentially pivotal point. Sunday's presidential debate, a town hall-style event, is seen as critical as Trump tries to rebound from a dip in some opinion polls after a rocky performance in the first debate.
"No woman should ever be described in these terms or talked about in this manner. Ever," said Reince Preibus, chairman of the Republican National Committee.
House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, the top Republican elected official, said he was "sickened" by the comments and said Trump would not attend a campaign event in Wisconsin with him on Saturday.
"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," Ryan said in a statement.
Trump later said that running mate Mike Pence would represent him at the Wisconsin campaign event.
A spokeswoman for "Access Hollywood" declined immediate comment.
Hillary Clinton called the tape "horrific" on Twitter and said: "We cannot allow this man to become president."
In the first presidential debate, on Sept. 26, Clinton took aim at Trump for what she said was sexist behavior, highlighting his criticism of Alicia Machado, a former Miss Universe who he said gained too much weight, saying he called her "Miss Piggy." Trump, who had owned the Miss Universe pageants, refused to back down from his comments about Machado, unleashing a predawn Twitter tirade about her. He even called on followers to "check out" her "sex tape."
It later emerged that Trump appeared in at least two sexually explicit videos of his own, produced by Playboy magazine. In one video from 1994, Trump is reportedly seen photographing fully-clothed models and interviewing a potential Playboy playmate. In the second video, from 2001, Trumped is filmed backstage at a Playboy fashion show with three playmates, one of them his current wife Melania Knauss.