Donald Trump’s lewd videotaped remarks about women threw his White House campaign and the Republican Party in crisis at the weekend, just 30 days from the election and on the eve of his second debate with rival Hillary Clinton.
He nevertheless rejected growing calls from elected members of his own party to step aside over the 2005 remarks, insisting there was zero chance he would quit the presidential race.
Trump’s wife, Melania, said she was offended by her husband’s “unacceptable and offensive” comments boasting about his ability to grope women as he pleased.
He was caught on a hot mic just months after the two married in the real estate magnate’s third marriage.
Melania nevertheless urged voters to support him.
“I hope people will accept his apology, as I have, and focus on the important issues facing our nation and the world,” she said.
The videotape, released on Friday by the Washington Post, forced a rare apology from a campaign already peppered by controversies over Trump’s treatment of women.
CNN said the Republican National Committee was considering ending a joint fundraising agreement with the Trump campaign.
Trump called the disclosure a distraction, defiantly attacking the Clintons for husband Bill’s past infidelities, and hinting strongly he would say more on the topic during the debate in St Louis, Missouri.
At a campaign event, Bill Clinton was heckled by an apparent Trump supporter who told him “You’re a rapist!”
But the former president brushed it off as an attempt by Republicans to make it up after the backlash over Trump’s comments.
Trump denied his campaign was in crisis and predicted the controversy would blow over. “The media and establishment want me out of the race so badly. I will never drop out of the race, will never let my supporters down! #Maga,”he said on Twitter.
The hashtag refers to his campaign slogan, Make America great again. Republican reaction to the videotape came fast and furious, with some calling on the bombastic billionaire to step aside, or allow running mate Mike Pence to take the top of the ticket,others simply withdrawing their endorsement.
House speaker Paul Ryan, the top Republican office holder, said he was sickened by Trump’s comments, and disinvited him from a political event in Wisconsin.
Pence was to go in Trump’s place, but he cancelled without explanation.
By Saturday, about a dozen senators, a dozen members of the House of Representatives and three governors – all Republicans – had withdrawn their support.
Among senior party figures, Condoleezza Rice– a former secretary of state and national security adviser under president George W Bush – said: “Enough! Donald Trump should not be president. He should withdraw.”