Just minutes into Sunday’s second presidential debate, Donald Trump was asked to explain why he made lewd comments about women in a tape that has been on the minds of Americans — and played repeatedly — since its release on Friday.
The tape talk began what became a nasty, bitter debate between the two rivals, where at times, Hillary Clinton sought public apologies from Trump, and Trump countered that his rival should be investigated and put in “jail.” At times audience members gasped or shook their heads in shock.
“You bragged that you sexually assaulted women — do you understand that?” moderator Anderson Cooper asked Trump.
“No, that’s not what I said,” Trump said.
“This was locker room talk. I’m not proud of it. I apologized to my family and I apologized to the American people. Certainly I’m not proud of it. But it is locker room talk,” Trump said.
Cooper asked if Trump had every groped or assaulted a woman. Trump said no.
But Trump quickly switched the subject to his perceived ability to fight ISIS as president — noting the world is in chaos and there are more important things to focus on.
But Clinton said the Trump video shows who the Republican nominee really is.
“What we all saw and heard on Friday was Donald talking about women: what he thinks about women, what he does to women, and he has said that 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 because we’ve seen this throughout the entire campaign,” Clinton said.
The tape’s audio, from an “Access Hollywood” taping in 2005, featured Trump speaking into an open mic in lewd terms about a woman he tried to seduce.
“When you’re a star they let you do it,” Trump says in the tape. “You can do anything.”
He added seconds later, “Grab them by the p—-. You can do anything.”
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Tension in the room full of undecided voters ran extremely high. Beyond the voters, the audience included family members of the two candidates — and three women who have accused Bill Clinton of sexual assault or misconduct.
The two candidates didn’t shake hands when they first entered the stage, which is customary for the presidential debates.
But they did shake hands at the conclusion of the 90-minute debate, after an audience member asked each to say something positive about the other.
Throughout the debate, Trump stuck with some of his key campaign points: challenging Clinton on her email scandal and bringing up Bill Clinton’s alleged infidelities and sexual accusations against the former president.
Trump vowed to instruct the Justice Department to investigate Hillary Clinton should he win the presidency.
“I didn’t think I’d say this, but I’m going to say this, and I hate to say it, but if I win, I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation,” Trump said. “There’s never been anything like it. And we’re going to get a special prosecutor.”
Clinton shot back that “everything” Trump said was “absolutely false.”
“It’s just a good thing that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law in our country,” she added.
“Because you’d be in jail,” Trump said.
When asked if Bill Clinton was wrong to criticize the Affordable Healthcare Act, Hillary Clinton said she’d “come up with a different system,” if the country were able to start it all over again.
She said getting rid of it would mean the insurance companies “get to do whatever they want.”
“Let’s fix what’s broken about it, but let’s not throw it away,” Clinton said.
Trump vowed to appeal the plan: “It is a disastrous plan, and it has to be repealed and replaced,” Trump said.
Clinton was also asked about the release of transcripts on Friday by WikiLeaks, including one in which she said she dreamed of “open trade and open borders” throughout the Western Hemisphere in paid speeches to financial institutions. In the speeches, she also said she struggled with having public versus political positions.
In her response, Clinton pointed the finger at Russia for the hacks, saying a foreign government was trying to influence the election in Trump’s favor. And she claimed she was paraphrasing Abraham Lincoln in challenges he found in private vs. public life.
But Trump chimed in that the difference between Clinton and Lincoln was that “he never lied.”
Asked about the Syrian refugee crisis, Trump once again called it “the great Trojan horse of our time.”
“I believe in building safe zones. … I don’t want to have with all the problems this country has and all of the problems that you see going on, hundreds of thousands of people coming in from Syria when we know nothing about them. We know nothing about their values and we know nothing about their love for our country.”
Clinton said her government wouldn’t let anyone into the country that poses a risk to us, but should try to help the most vulnerable refugees, including women and children.
“We will have vetting that is as tough as it needs to be from our professionals and our intelligence experts and others,” she said.
Trump revealed some dissension with his vice presidential pick Indiana Gov. Mike Pence in a question about what he’d do as president about Syria and the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo. Moderator Martha Raddatz reminded Trump that Pence said the U.S. should be prepared to use military force to strike the military targets of the Assad regime, if Russia continues to be involved along with the Syrian forces.
“He and I haven’t spoken, and I disagree,” Trump said. “Syria is no longer Syria. I believe we have to get ISIS.”
That remark came a day after Pence said he can’t defend the Trump tape. In a statement he said he was “offended by the words and actions described by Donald Trump.”
The final question from an audience member sought to end the contentious debate on a positive note: “My question to both of you is — regardless of the current rhetoric — would either of you name one positive thing that you respect in one another?”
Clinton credited Trump’s children, calling them “incredibly able and devoted.” And Trump called Clinton a “fighter”: “She doesn’t quit. She doesn’t give up.”
The two candidates will face off for the last debate on Wednesday, Oct. 19 in Las Vegas.