Reuters ST. LOUIS, Mo. (Reuters) — Donald Trump, defiant amid a tide of criticism of his sexually aggressive remarks about women, said Hillary Clinton would go to jail if he were president and attacked her husband for his treatment of women in a vicious presidential debate less than a month before the U.S. election.
The Sunday night debate, the second of three before the Nov. 8 vote, was remarkable for the brutal nature of the exchanges between Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, and Clinton, his Democratic rival.
The New York businessman called Clinton a “devil” who repeatedly lies, someone with tremendous hate in her heart. The former secretary of state called Trump an abuser of women who is unfit for the White House.
There was a palpable sense of mutual contempt as they stood on stage, refusing to shake hands at the start. Moderators Anderson Cooper of CNN and Martha Raddatz of ABC both seemed at points to be grimly watching two trains collide.
Through it all, Trump, 70, and Clinton, 68, both landed punches as they clashed over taxes, health care, U.S. policy in the Syria civil war and Clinton’s comments that half of Trump’s supporters belonged in a “basket of deplorables.”
Trump took the stage in St. Louis, Mo., at the most perilous time of his 16-month-old candidacy.
He gave a more disciplined performance than at the first debate two weeks ago, but left Republicans torn over whether to publicly abandon a badly wounded candidate who is endangering closely contested congressional races, or to stand behind him in the dimming hope he can still win them the White House.
A 2005 video, made public on Friday, of Trump making predatory remarks about women prompted a stampede of Republican politicians to abandon him during the weekend.
On Monday, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway called Trump’s comment over jailing Clinton “a quip.” She told MSNBC what Trump critics have already noted, that, “whether she goes to jail is not up to Donald Trump.”
Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook told NBC that Trump had not appeared to take the video seriously. “Donald Trump came to try to rescue his spiraling campaign,” Mook said.
He again described the comments as “locker-room talk” and said he had never kissed or groped women without their permission, despite having bragged about doing so on the video that emerged on Friday.
President Bill Clinton had done worse to women, Trump said in one of several forceful attacks that may reinforce his popularity with his core supporters who detest the Democratic nominee.
Hillary Clinton responded that Trump’s comments showed he is unfit for the White House.
“He has said the video doesn’t represent who he is but I think it’s clear to anyone who heard it that it represents exactly who he is,” Clinton said.
Clinton wins debate 57-34%
A CNN/ORC snap poll of debate watchers found that 57 percent thought Clinton won the encounter, versus 34 percent for Trump. U.S. stock futures and the Mexican peso jumped as markets saw less chance of a Trump victory.