Donald Trump was under unprecedented pressure to step down as the Republican presidential nominee after a video emerged showing him joking about sexual assault and detailing his attempts to seduce a married woman.
The bombshell footage from 2005 rocked the billionaire’s campaign to its core and threatened to send his bid for the White House into a death spiral as party insiders called for his running mate Mike Pence to replace him.
Shocked senior Republicans said they were “sickened” and queued up to denounce their own standard bearer as a “creep and a cad,” and an “irredeemable pervert”. Women’s groups accused him of fueling sexual violence.
Mr Trump’s comments sparked an avalanche of criticism even from those closest to him.
His wife Melania said: “The words my husband used are unacceptable and offensive to me. This does not represent the man that I know.”
But she added: “He has the heart and mind of a leader. I hope people will accept his apology, as I have, and focus on the important issues facing our nation and the world.”
Mike Pence, Mr Trump’s own running mate, condemned his behaviour and said he could not defend it.
Mr Pence said: “As a husband and father I was offended by the words and actions described by Donald Trump.”
He added: “I am grateful that he has expressed remorse and apologised to the American people. We pray for his family and look forward to the opportunity he has to show what is in his heart when he goes before the nation in the debate.”
In his first interview since the scandal broke Mr Trump told the Wall Street Journal there was “zero chance I’ll quit” and added: “I never, ever give up.” Asked about his comments about women he said: “People get it, they get life.”
The candidate said his daughter Ivanka and third wife Melania were supporting him. He said: “I was with Ivanka yesterday. I’m with Melania now. They fully understand and they’re very loyal.” He added: “Go behind closed doors of the holier-than-thou politicians and pundits and see what they’re saying. I look like a baby.”
The latest scandal in Mr Trump’s already torrid campaign came on the eve of tomorrow’s second televised presidential debate, a contest now being widely viewed as a last chance for Mr Trump to rescue his candidacy.
Questions from female voters about whether he is a sexist and misogynist are expected to dominate.
The 11-year-old video showed Mr Trump arriving by bus at a studio to make a cameo appearance on the American soap opera Days of Our Lives.
He was accompanied by a crew from Access Hollywood, a leading US entertainment news show, including high profile presenter Billy Bush.
Mr Bush is a cousin of former president George W. Bush and his brother Jeb Bush, who lost the race for the Republican nomination to Mr Trump.
Seemingly unaware that his microphone was live Mr Trump began crudely telling Mr Bush how he had attempted to seduce Access Hollywood’s married anchor woman, Nancy O’Dell, and then made derogatory comments about her.
He then bragged about how he could kiss and grope women at will, saying: “I don’t even wait. When you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything.”
Mr Trump, who was 59 and recently married to his third wife Melania at the time, then turned his attention to Arianne Zucker, the soap actress he was about to meet, reaching for a packed of Tic Tac mints to freshen his breath “in case I start kissing her”.
After the video was published by The Washington Post Mr Trump initially tried to dismiss it as “locker room banter” and issued a statement claiming that “Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course”.
But within hours it became clear that the backlash within his own party was worse than in previous scandals, including when Mr Trump criticised a former Miss Universe’s weight and a Muslim family whose soldier son died in Iraq.
Shortly after midnight, for the first time in the campaign, Mr Trump released a televised apology in a bid to retrieve the situation.
Looking straight at a camera he declared himself a “changed man” since the incident. He said: “I was wrong and I apologise. I’ve never said I’m a perfect person nor pretended to be someone I’m not. I pledge to be a better man tomorrow.”
Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent, called the billionaire’s behaviour “horrific”. She added: “We cannot allow this man to become president.”
Mr Pence was said to be “beside himself” after news of the scandal broke. His wife Karen was said to be “furious”.
Many Republican politicians running for Congress across America have endorsed Mr Trump to improve their own chances.
But with the New York property billionaire now trailing Mrs Clinton in polls and the impact of the latest scandal becoming clear, some began abandoning their nominee.
They included Kelly Ayotte, a high profile female Republican senator running for re-election in New Hampshire who said she now intended to write in Mr Pence’s name on her ballot paper.
“I’m a mother and American first. I cannot support a candidate who brags about degrading and assaulting women,” she said.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, the most senior elected Republican, quickly disinvited Mr Trump from a political event they were to attend together on Saturday night, although stopped short of withdrawing his endorsement.
He said: “I am sickened by what I heard today. Women are to be championed and revered, not objectified.”
Another senior Republican, Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, said: “No woman should ever be described in these terms or talked about in this manner. Ever.”
John Kasich, the Republican governor of the key state of Ohio, withdrew support and called Mr Trump’s comments “disgusting”
Mr Kasich said: “I will not vote for a nominee who has behaved in a manner that reflects so poorly on our country.”
Arnold Schwarzenegger, the former Republican Governor of California, said he would for the first time not vote Republican.
He said: “I want to remind fellow Republicans it is not only acceptable to choose your country over your party, it is your duty.”
David Yepsen, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University, said: “We’ve never seen something like this Trump clip in a modern presidential campaign. It’s sad for the American political system.”
Republican strategist Ron Bonjean said: “This feels like it is quickly becoming a political game over. Trump is going to have to pull a rabbit out of his hat in order to turn things around.”
In the Trump campaign there were fears of more damaging sexual revelations to come.
Erin Burnett, a CNN anchorwoman, said a friend had told her Mr Trump had once tried to kiss her in exactly the manner described in the Access Hollywood tape.
“Trump took a Tic Tac suggesting I take them also,” The friend told Ms Burnett, “He then leaned in, catching me off guard, and kissed me almost on the lips. I was freaked out.”
Billy Bush, 44, whose father Jonathan is the brother of President George H W Bush, said he was ashamed of his involvement in the scandal.
He said: I’m embarrassed and ashamed. It’s no excuse, but this happened eleven years ago – I was younger, less mature, and acted foolishly in playing along. I’m very sorry.”
The revelations came in the same week as accusations emerged that Mr Trump had demeaned women with sexist language on his TV show The Apprentice, rating female contestants by the size of their breasts and talking about which ones he would like to sleep with.
In 2007 it was reported that Mr Trump tried to remove Nancy O’Dell as host of Miss USA when she was pregnant.
The latest scandal to engulf Mr Trump overshadowed a release by Wikileaks of what it said were thousands of emails hacked from the account of John Podesta, Mrs Clinton campaign chairman.
The emails included excerpts from speeches Mrs Clinton gave to Wall Street executives and has repeatedly refused to make public.
In one speech from 2013 she said her dream was “a hemispheric common market with open trade and open borders” – a statement that is at odds with the more protectionist rhetoric of her 2016 campaign.
This story was picked from telegraph.co.uk