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Trump apologizes for saying 'foolish things,' turns tables on Bill Clinton

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gestures as he speaks to veterans at Drake University on January 28, 2016 in Des Moines, Iowa.
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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gestures as he speaks to veterans at Drake University on January 28, 2016 in Des Moines, Iowa.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, with his campaign upended by crude remarks he made about women 11 years ago, apologized on Friday for saying "foolish things," attempting to pivot away from a widening controversy that threatened to sink his chances to win the White House.

The real estate mogul's campaign was roiled late Friday by the disclosure of a 2005 audiotape, in which Trump made a litany of lewd remarks about women, and suggested he pursued a married woman while being newly married himself.

"I never said I'm a perfect person, nor pretended to be something that I'm not," Trump said in a brief videotaped statement released shortly after midnight via Facebook.

He added that his travels on the campaign trail have "changed" his outlook, and that he was "humbled by the faith" placed in him by his supporters. "I pledge to be a better man tomorrow, and will never, ever let you down."

Former President Bill Clinton reacting to comments by Donald Trump at the 2015 Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting in New York on Sept. 29, 2015.
Adam Jeffery | CNBC
Former President Bill Clinton reacting to comments by Donald Trump at the 2015 Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting in New York on Sept. 29, 2015.

An array of Democrats have made his treatment of women and people of color a central critique of their opposition to his candidacy.

Although Trump expressed regret about the remarks made, he said that the crude comments "don't reflect who I am. I said it, I was wrong, and I apologize."

He called the controversy a "distraction from the important issues we're facing today," returning to a campaign theme he's deployed frequently: The sexual behavior of Bill Clinton, who has been unfaithful to his wife, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

In his statement, he accused the former president of predatory behavior, while saying the former Secretary of State and Democratic nominee attacked his accusers. Barely two weeks ago, Trump threatened to bring Gennifer Flowers, the former president's ex-paramour, to the first presidential debate.

"I've said some foolish things, but there's a big difference between the words and actions of other people. Bill Clinton has abused women, and Hillary Clinton has bullied, attacked, shamed and intimidated his victims," Trump added.

It was unclear whether Trump's statement would effectively quell the controversy that forced scores of GOP leaders to denounce the 2005 remarks.

As the storm grew, House Speaker Paul Ryan dis-invited Trump from a party event over the weekend, while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell denounced the comments as "repugnant" and "unacceptable." Meanwhile, The Associated Press reported that Trump's running mate, Indiana governor Mike Pence, was "beside himself" with anger, a source familiar with his thinking told the publication.

The developments triggered a round of speculation about whether Trump would either withdraw, after pressure from the Republican National Committee.

His statement, however, left little doubt that Trump would continue to be the GOP's standard-bearer in the November general election.

"See you at the debate," Trump said in closing, referencing Sunday's face-off between he and his Democratic challenger.