A defiant Donald Trump on Sunday dismissed the controversy over a video in which he made obscene comments about groping women calling it “locker room talk” but admitted that he was very embarrassed by the same.
The second presidential debate got off to a chilly start when the two candidates for the November 8 election greeted each other without the traditional handshake. It quickly turned into an acrimonious discussion of a 2005 video that emerged on Friday in which Trump was heard using vulgar language and talking about groping women without consent.
While brushing aside the accusations against himself over the video, he claimed former president Bill Clinton had done worse to women.
“Mine are words and his are action,” he said. He also accused Hillary Clinton of going on the attack against women who had alleged sexual misconduct by her husband.
“He has said the video doesn’t represent who he is but I think it’s clear to anyone who heard it that it represents exactly who he is,” Clinton said adding that his comments show how unfit he is for the White House.
A flood of Republicans have withdrawn their support for Trump over the video. The controversy has pitched Trump into the biggest crisis of his 16-month-old campaign and deepened fissures between him and establishment Republicans.
The debate’s town hall-style format, with undecided voters posing half the questions and the debate’s two moderators posing the others, allowed the candidates to move freely around the stage and address the questioners directly.
Clinton, 68, and Trump, 70, both stood up to answer questions, and Clinton frequently stood directly in front of the questioners in an effort to make a connection with voters. At times Trump stood almost over her shoulder as she addressed the town hall meeting.
Trump met just hours before the debate on Sunday with three women who had accused Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct and a fourth woman who was a victim in a rape case that Hillary Clinton participated in as a defense attorney. All four sat in the first row of the audience at the debate.
Before the debate, Trump had threatened he was going to attack Bill Clinton for his marital infidelities in response to criticism from Hillary Clinton that the Republican nominee is a misogynist who has a history of mistreating women.
Trump appeared with Paula Jones, who filed a sexual harassment suit against Bill Clinton in 1991, Juanita Broaddrick, who accused Bill Clinton of rape in 1978, and Kathleen Willey, a former White House aide who accused Bill Clinton of groping her in 1993.
None of the accusations was new. Bill Clinton was never charged in any of the cases, and he settled a sexual harassment suit with one of the women, Paula Jones, for $850,000 with no apology or admission of guilt.
Also at the event was Kathy Shelton, who was raped at the age of 12. Hillary Clinton, a practicing attorney at the time, defended the rapist who ultimately pleaded guilty to a reduced charge.
Clinton’s campaign responded to Trump’s pre-debate event by calling it a “stunt” and a “destructive race to the bottom.”