NEW YORK (AP) — In a videotaped midnight apology, Donald Trump declared "I was wrong and I apologize" after being caught on tape making shockingly vulgar and sexually charged comments.
Yet he also defiantly dismissed the revelations as "nothing more than a distraction" from a decade ago and signaled he would close his presidential campaign by arguing rival Hillary Clinton has committed greater sins against women.
"I've said some foolish things," Trump said in a video posted on his Facebook page early Saturday. "But there's a big difference between the words and actions of other people. Bill Clinton has actually abused women and Hillary has bullied, attacked, shamed and intimidated his victims."
Trump's 90-second statement capped a jarring day that threatened to sink the billionaire businessman's White House campaign, sending Republicans into a panic with just over a month until Election Day and on the cusp of Sunday's crucial presidential debate.
One by one, outraged GOP lawmakers condemned Trump's comments in a 2005 video obtained and released Friday by The Washington Post and NBC News. In the video, Trump is heard describing attempts to have sex with a married woman. He also brags about women letting him kiss and grab them because he is famous.
"When you're a star they let you do it. You can do anything," Trump says in the previously unaired comments. He adds seconds later: "Grab them by the p . You can do anything."
House Speaker Paul Ryan said he was "sickened" by Trump's remarks and angrily revoked an invitation for the real estate mogul to appear at a GOP event Saturday in Wisconsin. But like most of the many lawmakers who slammed Trump's words as reprehensible, Ryan did not pull his endorsement of his party's nominee.
"I hope Mr. Trump treats this situation with the seriousness it deserves and works to demonstrate to the country that he has greater respect for women than this clip suggests," Ryan said.
But for some Republican officials, Trump had finally gone too far.
"You, sir, are the distraction," said an angry Utah Sen. Mike Lee in a video posted to his Facebook page after Trump issued his midnight apology. "Your conduct, sir, is the distraction."
Lee called on Trump to abandon his campaign, saying it was time for the Republican Party to "expect more. There is no need for us to settle."
Clinton, who spent Friday away from the campaign trail preparing for Sunday's debate, weighed in on Twitter, calling Trump's comments "horrific" and adding, "We cannot allow this man to become president."
For more than a year, Trump's outrageous and often outlandish comments have given Republicans fits. But with some notable exceptions — including nearly all the party's living past presidents and White House nominees — GOP officials have at least nominally thrown their support behind him.
Some of that support has been driven by a belief that Trump needs to at least be competitive in the November election in order to give candidates in down-ballot races a chance to win. The question many Republicans now face is whether the balance will now tip and supporting Trump becomes the riskier position.
Even before Friday's revelations, Trump was struggling to steady his campaign. He had an uneven performance in the first debate and in the following days, bewilderingly feuded with a beauty queen he had shamed for gaining weight.