NEW YORK — Abortion may be Donald Trump’s toughest subject, a rare topic where his comments are not Teflon and do stick — especially with women voters.
In an interview Thursday, Trump, 69, sought to clarify recent remarks about whether any of the women he dated in his bachelor days had abortions. "The answer is 'no,'" he said.
Last week he dodged that question when New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd asked him if, when he was single and famously linked to many women, he was ever involved with a woman who had an abortion.
"Such an interesting question. So, what’s your next question?" he told Dowd.
Many took that evasion as a yes. Trump supporters screamed that no other candidates were asked such invasive questions. But Trump had already jumped into troubled water on the issue, especially with women, when he suggested to MSNBC’s Chris Matthews that "there has to be some form of punishment" for women who have abortions if he is elected president and restrictions on abortion become the law.
Trump quickly took back his punishment comment, saying in another TV interview that "the laws are set. And I think we have to leave it that way."
In the interview in his Trump Tower office on a number of issues, Trump repeated talked about the "respect" he has for women, how he has a proven track record for hiring them — and that he didn’t think Dowd was serious when she asked that question about abortion.
"I thought she was sort of kidding," he said. "The answer is 'no.'"
Then he added, "I respect Maureen Dowd. I think she is a great writer."
Once a supporter of abortion rights, Trump now refers to himself as "pro-life." He has said he has "evolved on many issues," just like Ronald Reagan did, over the years.
Surveys show women are paying attention to his comments on abortion and other issues, and an extraordinary high number — around 70 percent — have negative attitudes toward Trump.
Trump said he did not see any gender gap at his rallies and that the media is not depicting him fairly. "I get along better with women than men," he said.
But in the interview, he did allow that he should not have retweeted the unflattering shot of rival Sen. Ted Cruz’s wife, Heidi. "I could have done without that to be honest," he said.