For a candidate who proudly stands behind his most caustic comments, it was a mea culpa of sorts.
On Thursday, Donald Trump expressed some regret over his behavior on the campaign trail, saying he hadn’t always used the “right words” in speeches and television interviews.
“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,” the Republican presidential nominee told supporters at a rally in Charlotte, N.C. “I have done that, and I regret it, particularly where it may have caused personal pain.”
Trump, using a teleprompter, did not say which specific incidents he regretted.
In a tumultuous week for his campaign, the statement seemed gauged to turn the page on months of insults that have marked his campaign against Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee.
“Too much is at stake for us to be consumed with these issues,” Trump said. "But one thing I can promise you is this: I will always tell you the truth.”
Clinton responded by emailing supporters a reminder of Trump’s many insults and refusals to apologize, casting his remarks as a political exercise.
“We learned tonight that his speechwriter and teleprompter knows he has much for which he should apologize,” Christina Reynolds, a spokeswoman for Clinton, said in a statement. “But that apology tonight is simply a well-written phrase until he tells us which of his many offensive, bullying and divisive comments he regrets — and changes his tune altogether.”
Trump has called Mexican immigrants “rapists,” disparaged the appearance of certain women, mocked a disabled reporter and battled publicly with the Muslim parents of an Army captain killed in Iraq.
In each of those cases, Trump has never expressed regret.
In May, Trump said he did not regret criticizing the war record of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who spent more than five years as a prisoner in North Vietnam.
“I like not to regret anything,” he said on conservative talk radio at the time.
This week, Trump hired a new campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, a veteran pollster who once headed a group of super PACs supporting Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.
He also made Stephen Bannon chief executive of his campaign. Bannon is the executive chairman of Breitbart News, a website know for its abrasive and unapologetic brand of conservatism.
In North Carolina, Trump trails Clinton by 9 percentage points, according to a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News/Marist poll. The situation is similar in several swing states.
Trump is scheduled to begin airing his first television ads of the campaign in Florida, Ohio, North Carolina and Pennsylvania on Friday.
Meanwhile, Trump continued his attacks on his opponent, tying her to the recent news that a payment of $400 million the Obama administration had made to Iran in January was contingent on the release of a group of American prisoners.
The payment had fueled accusations from Republican lawmakers and Trump that the United States had violated its longstanding policy against paying ransom.
“Hillary Clinton owns President Obama’s Iran policy,” Trump said. “One more reason she can never, ever be allowed to be president.”
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