Donald Trump in Reno

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Reno, Nevada, on Oct. 5.

Credit:

Mike Segar/Reuters

Donald Trump rejected calls that he step aside as the Republican presidential nominee over lewd videotaped remarks about women, telling The Wall Street Journal on Saturday there is "zero chance I'll quit."

"I never, ever give up," the newspaper quoted Trump as saying following calls by some Republicans that he quit the race after being caught in a 2005 videotape boasting of groping women's genitals with impunity.

The videotape, released Friday by The Washington Post, forced a rare apology from Trump on the eve of a crucial debate with Democrat Hillary Clinton, and set off an uproar in his Republican party.

"Anyone who knows me knows these words don't reflect who I am. I said it, I was wrong, and I apologize," Trump said early Saturday in a videotaped statement posted on his Twitter account.

It was believed to be the first apology of his 16-month White House campaign, one peppered by controversies over his treatment of women.

But Trump then undercut his words, calling the disclosure a "distraction," defiantly attacking the Clintons for husband Bill Clinton's past infidelities, and hinting strongly he would have more to say on the topic in Sunday's debate in St Louis, Missouri.

"We will discuss this more in the coming days. See you at the debate on Sunday," he said.

In The Wall Street Journal interview, Trump denied his campaign was in crisis, and predicted the controversy would blow over.

"The support I'm getting is unbelievable, because Hillary Clinton is a horribly flawed candidate," he said. 

On Twitter, he said: "Certainly has been an interesting 24 hours!"

'Sickened'

Republican reaction to the videotape came fast and furious, with some calling on him to step aside and others withdrawing their endorsement.

Even Trump's running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, said that as a husband and father he was "offended" by Trump's remarks.

"I do not condone his remarks and cannot defend them," he said in a statement, adding that Sunday night's debate was an opportunity for Trump "to show what is in his heart."

Trump's Republican critics want Pence, the vice presidential candidate, to replace the New York billionaire at the top of the ticket.

"Donald Trump should withdraw and Mike Pence should be our nominee effective immediately," said Senator John Thune, a  member of the Republican leadership. 

House Speaker Paul Ryan, the top Republican officeholder, said he was "sickened" by what he had heard.

Trump was supposed to appear Saturday with Ryan at a campaign event in the congressman's home state of Wisconsin, but the Republican nominee was disinvited. Pence was to go in his place, but he canceled.

By Saturday, three senators, at least three members of the House of Representatives, and a former governor — all Republicans — had called on Trump to bow out of the White House race. Others withdrew their endorsements.

"I respectfully ask you, with all due respect, to step aside," urged Utah Senator Mike Lee.

Illinois Senator Mark Kirk echoed the sentiment.

".@realDonaldTrump should drop out. @GOP should engage rules for emergency replacement," Kirk said on Twitter.

Campaign in crisis

With the November 8 elections one month away and Clinton leading in the polls by nearly five percentage points nationally, the latest uproar has plunged Trump in the deepest crisis of his turbulent campaign. 

He had already been seriously hurt by a sloppy performance in his first debate with Clinton on September 26, a damaging Twitter war against a former Miss Universe and reports he may have paid no income taxes for 18 years.

Clinton, who is seeking to become the nation's first female commander-in-chief, is almost certain to call out Trump about the videotape during the debate.

"This is horrific," she said on Twitter. "We cannot allow this man to become president."

In the video from 2005, Trump uses vulgar and predatory language as he describes hitting on a married woman and grabbing women's crotches.

The three-minute video captures Trump reacting to an actress he was about to meet as he arrived on the set of daytime soap opera "Days of Our Lives," for the taping of a segment in which he was to have a cameo appearance, the Post said.

"I've gotta use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her," Trump says to Billy Bush, then host of the "Access Hollywood" show about celebrities.

"You know I'm automatically attracted to beautiful. I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet," he says.

"I don't even wait. And when you're a star they let you do it. You can do anything."

Trump also is heard bragging about trying to have sex with a married woman.

"I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn't get there. And she was married," Trump says.

The tape was recorded months after Trump married his third wife, Melania, according to the Post.

"I've never said I'm a perfect person, nor pretended to be someone I'm not," Trump said in his apology.

"I pledge to be a better man tomorrow."

AFP's Jim Mannion reported in Washington.

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