Trump defends record on women as presidential rivals pile on
WASHINGTON (AP) — Billionaire presidential candidate Donald Trump’s doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon.
The other 16 Republican candidates fighting for attention and breathing room in a primary field eclipsed by Trump hoped he’d be finished off by latest firestorm to consume his campaign, sparked by provocative comments about women.
But he was back Sunday, splashed across the weekend news shows, dismissing the latest firestorm to consume his campaign and explaining how he cherishes women and would be their strongest advocate if elected.
“I’m leading by double digits, so maybe I shouldn’t change,” he boasted.
The latest controversy started Thursday night when Fox News debate moderator Megyn Kelly recounted Trump’s history of incendiary comments toward women. Angry over what he considered unfair treatment at the debate, Trump told CNN on Friday night that Kelly had “blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.”
The remark cost Trump a prime-time speaking slot at the RedState Gathering, the Atlanta conference where several other presidential candidates spoke to about 1,000 conservative activists.
But Trump refused to back down, insisting Sunday that only “a deviant” would interpret his comment beyond a harmless barb.
“I apologize when I’m wrong, but I haven’t been wrong. I said nothing wrong,” said Trump, who spoke to four Sunday news shows, skipping only Fox News, the network with which he is feuding.
The flap is just the latest from Trump’s unconventional, insurgent campaign, which has excited many anti-establishment conservatives while confounding party leaders already facing the prospects of a bruising fight among 17 candidates.
Some have responded by sharpening their critiques, questioning Trump’s electability, his conservative credentials, policy ideas and personality.
Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, the only woman running for the Repbulican nomination, appeared most adept at seizing on the comments as she strives to break into the top 10.
“I think women of all kinds are really sort of horrified by this,” she said, arguing that there was a difference between being politically incorrect and insulting.
Jeb Bush, the presidential favorite for many top Republican donors, said at RedState that Trump’s bombast would hurt the Republicans’ chances with women, who already tilt toward Democrats in presidential elections. “Do we want to win? Do we want to insult 53 percent of our voters?” the former Florida governor asked.
Other candidates bemoaned the challenge of preaching their message when all their precious free TV time is spent being asked about Trump.
“At this point, I mean, we’ve got to focus on our message. Otherwise, my whole campaign will be, ‘How do you feel about what Donald Trump said about something?’” Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said. “He says something every day.”
Trump, who has refused to rule out a third party run if he falls short of the nomination, was asked about those Republicans wondering what it will take to get him out of their party. “I don’t think anything. I really want to stay.”
Associated Press Writer Jill Colvin contributed to this report.