The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Donald Trump finally said something so bad he had to apologize

In this video from 2005, Donald Trump prepares for an appearance on 'Days of Our Lives' with Access Hollywood host Billy Bush and actress Arianne Zucker. (Video: Obtained by The Washington Post)

Donald Trump has finally been caught on tape saying something so vulgar and crass and impolitic that he felt the need to say the words: “I apologize.”

The Washington Post's David Fahrenthold reported Friday afternoon on a 2005 video of Trump speaking with Billy Bush in very lewd terms about a married woman he said he tried to have sex with, among other things. We'll let you click over for the whole rundown, but among the most vulgar comments Trump makes:

  • “I took her out furniture shopping. . . . I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there, and she was married.”
  • “And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything. . . . Grab them by the p---y . . ."

Trump's response was very Trump, accusing former president Bill Clinton of saying worse things about women when the two of them were on the golf course, before uttering two words that he does not appear to have uttered during this campaign: “I apologize.”

But then he adds a qualifier: " . . . if anyone was offended.”

“This was locker room banter, a private conversation that took place many years ago,” Trump said in the statement. “Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course — not even close. I apologize if anyone was offended.”

By late Friday night, after some Republicans began to denounce him, Trump made a fuller apology. Even then, though, he served notice that he didn't believe his conduct was worse than that of Clinton, and he suggested he would now press that case.

“Anyone who knows me knows these words don't reflect who I am. I said it, I was wrong, and I apologize,” he said in a video, adding: "I pledge to be a better man tomorrow, and will never, ever let you down."

But then, the Clinton stuff: "I've said some foolish things, but there's a big difference between the words and actions of other people. Bill Clinton has actually abused women, and Hillary has bullied, attacked, shamed and intimidated his victims. We will discuss this more in the coming days. See you at the debate on Sunday."

Even in apologizing, Trump can't help but be defiant and controversial.

Throughout the entirety of his campaign, Trump has confronted controversy after controversy over his current and past statements with a mix of doubling down and more doubling down. When Megyn Kelly asked him about calling women "fat pigs” and "dogs,” he said it was time to stop being politically correct. When even his own party accused him of saying a racist thing about a judge of Mexican descent, Trump didn't apologize. Nor did he apologize for feuding with the family of a Muslim soldier who was killed in Iraq or for his long-running effort to question whether President Obama was born in the United States.

When asked about his lewd comments about women's breasts and on other topics during guest appearances on Howard Stern's radio show, Trump didn't apologize. He said he was being an entertainer and that he probably wouldn't have said those things or appeared on the show if he knew he would eventually run for president.

There was one point in the campaign when some thought Trump had veered into apology territory. In August, he expressed "regret" for sometimes saying "the wrong thing" during a rally in Charlotte:

“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. I have done that,” Trump said, with a slight smile, during a campaign rally here.
“And believe it or not, I regret it. I do regret it, particularly where it may have caused personal pain. Too much is at stake for us to be consumed with these issues,” he said. “But one thing; I can promise you this: I will always tell you the truth.”

But in the days and weeks that followed, efforts to press Trump on precisely what he regretted came up basically empty. It didn't seem he regretted any one thing in particular — or at least, he wouldn't admit it.

Trump has been asked about his reluctance to apologize in the past, and he has joked — apparently, at least — that he hadn't actually done anything wrong.

"I think apologizing's a great thing, but you have to be wrong," he said last year. "I will absolutely apologize, sometime in the hopefully distant future, if I'm ever wrong."

He added in a November interview with Jimmy Fallon: "I fully think apologizing’s a great thing, but you have to be wrong.”

A joke, perhaps, but it was very close to the truth when it comes to how Trump pitches himself. And now we have a bona fide example of something from 11 years ago that Trump apparently didn't recall when he said suggested didn't have anything to apologize for.

"I've never said I'm a perfect person, nor pretended to be someone that I'm not," Trump said at the start of his late-night statement Friday.

Except that he basically had.