Nation/World

Trump vows to stay in race after calls for him to quit over lewd remarks

U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump vowed on Saturday to stay in the race even as his campaign was thrown into crisis as both his wife and running mate criticized him and a number of prominent Republicans withdrew support and urged him to drop out following news of a recording of him making lewd comments about women.

"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!" Trump wrote on Saturday afternoon on the social media website Twitter.

The video was the latest calamity for Trump, who had hoped to revive his flagging campaign in the face of a recent drop in polls with less than a month until Election Day.

Trump is due to appear alongside Democrat Hillary Clinton on Sunday in their second debate in the runup to the general election. Clinton is not expected to address Trump's video before then.

[Alaska Sens. Sullivan and Murkowski call on Donald Trump to drop out of presidential race]

The 2005 video of Trump talking on an open microphone showed the then-reality TV star speaking about groping women and trying to seduce a married woman. The video was taped only months after Trump married his third wife, Melania.

In a statement, Melania Trump called her husband's words "unacceptable and offensive to me."

"This does not represent the man that I know," she said. "He has the heart and mind of a leader. I hope people will accept his apology, as I have, and focus on the important issues facing our nation and the world."

The backlash over the video was swift and widespread. More than 60 prominent Republican current and former officeholders issued statements condemning Trump's remarks about women, including more than 20 who called for him to end his presidential bid.

In an unusual move, his vice presidential running mate Mike Pence issued a critical statement of Trump's words, saying on Twitter that he "cannot defend them."

"As a husband and father, I was offended by the words and actions described by Donald Trump," said Pence, who is governor of Indiana.

Pence indicated he would continue to support Trump, despite calls from several Republicans for Trump to step aside and let Pence be the nominee.

There is no precedent for a major party to replace its nominee this late in the campaign and it was unclear if there was an avenue to force him out. Voting has begun in several states, including swing states Virginia and North Carolina.

A recorded apology by Trump early on Saturday did not stymie an avalanche of calls from members of his party to quit.

Trump huddled on Saturday in Trump Tower with senior advisers, including New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

He left the building briefly to greet a small crowd of supporters, telling them "100 percent" he would remain in the race. Before returning to a bank of elevators, he told reporters, "Tremendous support."

Trump quickly moved to do damage control in Saturday's video in which he declared himself a changed man and attempted to shift the focus to his opponent Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

"Anyone who knows me knows these words don't reflect who I am. I said it, I was wrong, and I apologize," Trump said in his video statement, posted on his Facebook page.

The video overshadowed publication of excerpts of Clinton's paid closed-door speeches made public on Friday by a hacker who claimed to have obtained them from the email account of John Podesta, chairman of the Democrat's campaign.

In the speeches, she advocated more open borders and trade, a position she abandoned during the primary because it was untenable to Democratic progressives. Trump has repeatedly criticized her for her past support of free trade.

Comments condemned

Trump has struggled to win over women voters, and the video was expected to further feed Democratic criticism about his past behavior toward women. Trump's support has suffered among suburban women and white, college-educated women, groups that Republicans have traditionally won.

 

The remarks were the last straw for some Republicans who have stuck with him through a series of controversial remarks, including calling Mexican immigrants "rapists" and "criminals," calling for a ban on Muslim immigrants, attacking a judge of Mexican descent, attacking the Gold Star family of a Muslim soldier killed at war and saying Senator John McCain was not a war hero because he had been a prisoner of war.

House Speaker Paul Ryan disinvited Trump to a scheduled appearance on Saturday in Wisconsin. Pence declined to speak in his place.

The list of Republicans announcing they would not vote for Trump or calling on him to step aside grew on Saturday: Senators Kelly Ayotte, John McCain, Lisa Murkowsi, Dan Sullivan, Mark Kirk, Jeff Flake, John Thune, Mike Crapo, Shelley Moore Capito and Mike Lee; House members Jason Chaffetz, Mia Love, Joe Heck, Bradley Byrne, Martha Roby and Barbara Comstock; and Governors John Kasich, Dennis Daugaard and Gary Herbert. Additionally, former presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Carly Fiorina called on Trump to quit.

Capito, of West Virginia, called his remarks "disgusting and demeaning."

Chaffetz of Utah, one of Clinton's fiercest critics, retracted his endorsement of Trump, telling CNN he would not be able to look his 15-year-old daughter in the eye if he voted for him.

While Democrats largely remained silent, opting to let Republicans attack one of their own, Vice President Joe Biden wrote on Twitter, "The words are demeaning. Such behavior is an abuse of power. It's not lewd. It's sexual assault."

Some prominent Republicans indicated they would stick with Trump. Ralph Reed, head of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, and Tony Perkins, head of the conservative Family Research Council, said they would continue to support him.

"I think 10 years ago he was a different man," said Representative Jack Kingston, a Republican from Georgia. "I am very glad that he quickly apologized."

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