For all of the questions about Donald Trump's enthusiasm about religion, he has a remarkably doctrinaire view of political sins: Once you admit to them, you are absolved from them.
On Thursday night, the Republican presidential nominee offered a blanket statement of regret for unspecified things he'd said.
"Sometimes, in the heat of debate and speaking on a multitude of issues, you don’t choose the right words or you say the wrong thing," Trump said. "I have done that, and I regret it, particularly where it may have caused personal pain. Too much is at stake for us to be consumed with these issues. But one thing I can promise you is this: I will always tell you the truth."
Most of the statements Trump has made that got him into trouble didn't come from the heat of debate; they were at rallies (mocking a disabled reporter), during speeches (when he said Mexican immigrants were rapists) or during an interview (insulting Sen. John McCain). In many cases, he wasn't addressing a multitude of issues (like when he disparaged the mother of a Muslim soldier killed in Iraq).
But the critical line here is that last one: "I will always tell you the truth." It's odd because on so many occasions Trump has said he didn't regret making his statements.
In chronological order:
• After his campaign launch, during which Trump made disparaging comments about immigrants from Mexico, Trump said on the "Today" show, "There's no apology because what I said is right. I mean, what I said is a 100 percent right." He later reiterated that idea at a luncheon: "I love the Mexican people, but no apology because everything I said is 100 percent correct. All you have to do is read the newspapers."
He has continued to defend those comments throughout his campaign.
• When he retweeted someone who said that GOP rival Jeb Bush only criticized Trump's comments because Bush's wife was Mexican, Trump stood by the retweet. "Do I regret it? No, I don't regret it," he said. During the second Republican debate, pressed by Bush for an apology, Trump replied, "I won't do that because I said nothing wrong, but I hear she's a lovely woman."
• After he disparaged McCain's military service, he repeatedly refused to apologize, at one point saying he was "very disappointed in John McCain."
In a radio interview with Don Imus this year, Trump went further.
I don't, you know — I like not to regret anything. You do things and you say things. And what I said, frankly, is what I said. And you know some people like what I said, if you want to know the truth. Many people that like what I said. You know after I said that, my poll numbers went up seven points.
• Asked by "Fox & Friends" if he regretted reading Sen. Lindsey Graham's cellphone number out at a rally, Trump replied, "Not at all."
(For the record, we're only to last July.)
• During the first Republican debate, Trump refused to apologize when prompted by "Fox News" host Megyn Kelly for insulting women, saying that "the big problem this country has is being politically correct."
• When he subsequently made a comment about Kelly having blood coming from her "wherever," Trump refused to apologize for that, too. "There's nothing to apologize [for]," he said. "I thought she asked a very, very unfair question. So did everyone on social media, and I answered the question very well."
• Trump declined to apologize for using the term "anchor baby," which many find insulting. When it was suggested he use another term, Trump replied, "Oh, you want me to say that instead, okay? No, I’ll use the word ‘anchor baby.’"
• When Trump in October raised questions about GOP primary rival Ben Carson's religion, he refused to apologize. "I would certainly give an apology if I said something bad about it, but I didn't," he said.
• Trump refused to apologize for imitating the disability of New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski, saying instead that Kovaleski was trying to use his disability for sympathy. "The problem is, he's using what he's got to such a horrible degree, I think it's disgraceful," Trump said.
• After announcing his plan to bar Muslims from entering the country until the government "figures out what is going on," Trump defended the plan, saying that he had no regrets about it.
• When he criticized George W. Bush for having been president during the terror attacks on Sept. 11, Trump stood by it. "I could be very quiet, I could say, ‘Oh that’s wonderful,’ or I could say, ‘Excuse me, the World Trade Center.'"
• When Gawker goaded Trump into retweeting a quote from Italian dictator Mussolini, Trump didn't apologize. "I didn't know who said it, but what difference does it make if it was Mussolini or somebody else? It's a very good quote. Hey, it got your attention, didn't it?"
After other controversial tweets, Trump has similarly refused to apologize. When he tweeted a joke about Iowans being addled because of GMO corn, it was an intern's fault. When he tweeted an anti-Semitic image, the Star of David was a "sheriff's star."
• Questioned about the rhetoric he used at his rallies, which had been blamed for violent incidents against protesters, Trump said simply that "I don't have regrets."
• Trump said he wouldn't apologize for tweeting an unflattering picture of Sen. Ted Cruz's wife until Cruz first apologized for an ad run by a group unaffiliated with Cruz's Republican primary campaign. Eventually, Trump said he did regret the tweet — though that tweet has not been removed.
• After then-campaign-manager Corey Lewandowski grabbed the arm of a reporter and subsequently denied it, Trump said the campaign wouldn't apologize, and that he stood by Lewandowski. "These other candidates, they're weak," Trump said. At another point he said on CBS' "Face the Nation" that "it's not my job to apologize to her."
• At a rally in Minnesota in April, Trump explained why he refused to offer regrets. "We have to hit hard if we're going to win. If I was presidential, only about 20 percent of you would be here because it would be boring as hell," he said.
• Trump refused to apologize for implying that the judge overseeing the fraud case against Trump University was biased because of his Mexican heritage. Eventually Trump simply dismissed the question: "I do not feel that one's heritage makes them incapable of being impartial," he said in a statement, "but, based on the rulings that I have received in the Trump University civil case, I feel justified in questioning whether I am receiving a fair trial."
• When The Washington Post reported that Trump had not fulfilled his promise to give $1 million to charity, Trump refused to apologize. "You know, you’re a nasty guy. You’re really a nasty guy," he said to our reporter.
• When he continually called Sen. Elizabeth Warren "Pocahontas," he said he would apologize — but not to Warren. "Yes, I'll apologize — to Pocahontas, I will apologize!" he said. "Because Pocahontas is insulted."
He explained his thinking to a conservative radio host. "You never hear me apologize, do you? That's what killed Jimmy the Greek way back. Remember? He was doing okay 'til he said he was sorry." Jimmy the Greek was fired from his job as a sports commentator after making racist comments.
• Then there was the "sheriff's star" tweet, cribbed from a guy who made other anti-Semitic images on Twitter. "I said: 'Too bad. You should have left it up,'" Trump said when asked about it. "I would have rather defended it — just leave it up and say: No, that's not a Star of David. That's just a star."
• After disparaging the Kahn family, Trump didn't apologize, saying instead: "I said nice things about the son, and I feel that very strongly, but of course I was hit very hard from the stage, and you know it’s just one of those things. But no, I don’t regret anything."
On the "Tonight Show" last September, Trump outlined his overarching philosophy: "Apologizing is a great thing but you have to be wrong. I will apologize sometime in the hopefully distant future if I’m ever wrong." Apparently, that distant future has arrived.
So who was the real Trump, the honest Trump? Was it the man who for months stood by the comments that got him into trouble? Or was it the man who was sinking in the polls and suddenly had a death-bed conversion?
Some might say that's for a higher power to judge. Trump's campaign manager, though, has already absolved him.