Denying that he ever boasted about sexually assaulting women moments into the second presidential debate, Donald Trump dropped his boilerplate response to criticisms of his behavior in a decade-old video, in which he’s heard gleefully boasting about forcibly kissing women and grabbing their genitals, saying that all he had done is engage in locker room banter.
“We received a lot of questions online, Mr. Trump, about the tape that was released on Friday, as you can imagine,” said CNN host Anderson Cooper, who moderated the debate with Martha Raddatz of ABC. “You called what you said ‘locker room banter.’ You described kissing women without consent, grabbing their genitals.”
“That is sexual assault,” Cooper said. “You bragged that you sexually assaulted women. Do you understand that?”
Echoing the only justification he’s offered since the video was first released on Friday afternoon, Trump portrayed his 2005 remarks, which caused dozens of Republicans across the country to rescind their endorsements of his campaign, as typical of how men talk about women behind closed doors.
“I don’t think you understand what was said,” Trump responded to Cooper on Sunday. “This was locker room talk. I’m not proud of it. I apologized to my family, I apologized to the American people. Certainly, I’m not proud of it, but this was locker room talk.”
“This was locker room talk. I’m not proud of it.”
Trump then quickly pivoted to remarks about Islamic State videos in an apparent attempt to downplay the significance of his own video.
“You know what we have—a world where you have ISIS chopping off heads, where you have men, frankly, drowning people in steel cages, where you have wars and horrible, horrible sites all over, where you have so many bad things happening,” Trump said. “This is like medieval times; we haven’t seen anything like this—the carnage all over the world—and they look and they see.”
Cooper, unsatisfied with Trump’s response, pressed him once more: “Just for the record, though, are you saying that what you said on that bus eleven years ago that you did not actually kiss women without consent or grope women without consent?”
“I have great respect for women,” Trump said in not answering the question. “Nobody has more respect for women than I do.”
After Cooper asked the question multiple times more, Trump said he never did the things he described in the video.
In the video the Washington Post leaked on Friday, Trump is heard describing committing acts of sexual assault: “I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”
“Grab them by the pussy,” Trump continues. “You can do anything.”
Hillary Clinton responded to the tape early into the debate as well, saying that she’d spent a lot of time thinking about it over the past 48 hours.
“With prior Republican nominees for president, I disagreed with them on politics, policies, principles, but I never questioned their fitness to serve,” Clinton said. “Donald Trump is different. I said, starting back in June, that he was not fit to be president and commander in chief. And many Republicans and Independents have said the same thing.”
Countering Trump’s assertion that his past remarks are not exhibitive of his true feelings about women, Clinton claimed the tape accurately represents what Trump “thinks about women” and “what he does to women.”
“This is who Donald Trump is,” Clinton professed. “The question for us, the question our country must answer—is that this is not who we are.”