October 8, 2016: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton were hit by leaks late on Friday that could prove damaging to their campaigns as they gird for a key debate a month ahead of the Nov. 8 election.
Republicans grappled with a bombshell audiotape from 2005 published by The Washington Post in which Trump boasted in vulgar terms about trying to have sex with an unnamed married woman and groping women, saying “when you’re a star, they let you do it.”
Trump has previously come under fire for sexist and demeaning language he has used to describe women, including from Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. The new audio provides Clinton with powerful ammunition just ahead of the second presidential debate on Sunday night.
His comments were condemned by the chairman of the Republican National Committee. “No woman should ever be described in these terms or talked about in this manner. Ever,” said Reince Preibus in a statement.
Meanwhile, Wikileaks published an email from Clinton advisers appearing to contain excerpts of paid speeches to corporations, the transcripts of which the campaign has refused to release.
The U.S. government earlier formally accused Russia of hacking Democratic Party organizations ahead of the Nov. 8 presidential election. Wikileaks has declined to name its sources.
The speech excerpts could give Trump new fodder for attacking Clinton, who in them voices support for open trade and borders and discusses taking different positions in public than in private.
Sunday’s presidential debate, a town hall-style event, is seen as critical to Trump as he tries to rebound from a slump in some opinion polls after a rocky performance in the first debate.
TRUMP: ‘LOCKER ROOM BANTER’
Trump in a statement shrugged off the leaked tape as “locker room banter, a private conversation that took place many years ago.”
In the recorded conversation, Trump was wearing a microphone and chatting on a bus with Billy Bush, then host of NBC’s “Access Hollywood,” ahead of a segment they were about to tape.
“I did try and fuck her. She was married,” Trump said. “I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there.”
Trump talked about his attraction to beautiful women. “I just start kissing them,” he said.
“And when you’re a star they let you do it,” he said.
“Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”
Trump, who has brought up former President Bill Clinton’s infidelities as a criticism of Hillary Clinton, calling her a “total enabler,” responded to the audio.
“Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course – not even close. I apologize if anyone was offended,” Trump said.
“Access Hollywood” confirmed the video in its own report, saying it discovered the comments in its library.
Billy Bush, in a statement to Variety, said he was “embarrassed and ashamed” of his comments.
Hillary Clinton called the tape “horrific” on Twitter and said: “We cannot allow this man to become president.”
Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor who lost to Trump in the Republican presidential primaries, tweeted that the comments were “reprehensible.”