NEW YORK (AP) – Donald Trump blurted out lewd and sexually charged comments about women as he waited to make a cameo appearance on a soap opera in 2005, a revelation that led the Republican presidential nominee to issue a rare apology Friday, “if anyone was offended.”
Trump bragged about kissing, groping and trying to have sex with women who were not his wife on recordings obtained by The Washington Post and NBC News. The celebrity businessman boasted “when you’re a star, they let you do it,” in a conversation with Billy Bush, then a host of the television show “Access Hollywood.”
The remarks were captured by a live microphone that Trump did not appear to know was recording their conversation.
In a statement released by his campaign, Trump said: “This was locker room banter, a private conversation that took place many years ago. Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course – not even close. I apologize if anyone was offended.”
But by early Friday evening, condemnation began to arrive from points across the Republican Party. Chairman Reince Priebus, who has championed Trump’s campaign since the billionaire won the GOP nomination, said bluntly: “No woman should ever be described in these terms or talked about in this manner. Ever.”
New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who is locked in a tough re-election fight and this week reversed herself to say Trump was not a good role model for children, said his comments “are totally inappropriate and offensive.”
Two of Trump’s chief critics, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and 2012 nominee Mitt Romeny, slammed the New Yorker on Twitter. “No apology can excuse away Donald Trump’s reprehensible comments degrading women,” Bush said. From Romney: “Hitting on married women? Condoning assault? Such vile degradations demean our wives and daughters and corrupt America’s face to the world.”
Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, was “beside himself” after learning about Trump’s comments, while Pence’s wife was furious, according to a person familiar with their thinking. The person was not authorized to share the private discussion and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Pence ignored questions shouted by reporters Friday night in Rossford, Ohio, where he was campaigning with his daughter. He made no statement to reporters as his campaign plane left on its return to Indianapolis.
The comments came two days before the Republican nominee meets Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton for their second presidential debate, and as he confronts a series of stories about his past comments about women and tries to move beyond remarks shaming a former Miss Universe for gaining weight.
The 2005 remarks were recorded months after the reality TV star married his third wife, Melania. He is heard bemoaning that he tried and failed to seduce an unidentified woman, saying, “I moved on her and I failed, I’ll admit.”
“I did try and f— her. She was married,” Trump said. “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.'”
Trump said he “moved on her like bitch” and then made a crass remark about the woman’s breast implants. Then, after seeing the actress Arianne Zucker on the set of the soap opera on which he was to appear, he said he needed some breath mints “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,” Trump said. “And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything.”
He added: “Grab them by the p—-. You can do anything.”
The comments, which appeared to condone sexual assault, were swiftly condemned by Clinton’s campaign.
“This is horrific. We cannot allow this man to become president,” Clinton posted on her campaign’s Twitter account.
In his own statement, Billy Bush said he was “embarrassed and ashamed.”
“It’s no excuse, but this happened 11 years ago,” said Bush, who this summer was named a host of the third hour of NBC’s “Today” show. “I was younger, less mature and acted foolishly in playing along. I’m very sorry.”
Earlier this week, Trump dismissed questions about his history of vulgarity, telling a television station in Nevada that “a lot of that was done for the purpose of entertainment.” He added: “And I can tell you this, there’s nobody – nobody – that has more respect for women than I do.”
Trump is slated to travel Saturday to Wisconsin to campaign at an event with House Speaker Paul Ryan, in what would be their first joint campaign appearance. Several aides to Ryan did not respond to inquiries about whether the Wisconsin Republican still planned to appear with the nominee.
Trump has a long history of making lewd and highly sexual comments toward and about women. The Associated Press reported this week that during his years as a reality TV star on the “The Apprentice,” the GOP nominee repeatedly demeaned women with sexist language, rating female contestants by the size of their breasts and talking about which ones he’d like to have sex with.
“Access Hollywood” said Friday that it was the AP story that prompted a search of its archives, which revealed the vulgar tape.
During frequent interviews with shock jock Howard Stern in the 1990s, Trump made a long list of demeaning comments, saying that he could have had sex with Diana, princess of Wales, who had recently been killed in a car crash, and declaring that “A person who is very flat-chested is very hard to be a 10.”
He has repeatedly called the comedian Rosie O’Donnell a “pig” and “slob” and suggested she’d be less depressed if she stopped looking in the mirror. The Los Angeles Times reported last month that managers at Trump’s golf club in southern California knew the New York developer only wanted good-looking women on staff.
The Republican nominee delivered an uneven performance in the first presidential debate – punctuated by his frequent interruptions of his female opponent – and then spent days after the debate renewing his past attacks on Alicia Machado, the 1995 winner of the Miss Universe pageant that Trump used to own, over her weight.
Trump also bragged in the moments after the first debate and days afterward that he had decided not to bring up Bill Clinton’ infidelities, even as he did so. But Thursday night in New Hampshire, Trump said at an event “let’s see what happens” when asked if he might do so in Sunday’s second debate.
Associated Press writers Steve Peoples in New York and Jill Colvin in Jersey City, New Jersey, contributed to this report.