[WASHINGTON] Key Republican donors have begun looking into whether it's possible to replace Donald Trump as the party's presidential nominee after his campaign was jarred Friday by a video showing him speaking about groping women and making other crude, sexually aggressive comments.
Mr Trump released a video statement early Saturday apologising for the second time in 24 hours for the 2005 comments. He sought to demonise his opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton, at the same time.
"I said it. I was wrong. And I apologise. I never said I was a perfect person. I pledge to be a better man tomorrow," Mr Trump said in the statement. "Bill Clinton has actually abused women, and Hillary has bullied, attacked, shamed and intimidated his victims."
Mr Trump also said he planned to appear at the second presidential debate Sunday in St Louis.
Mr Trump's campaign has weathered other controversies but the latest flare-up is being treated more severely than in the past. Republican leadership rushed to condemn his statements, some Republican lawmakers withdrew their endorsements and donors are looking to fund an effort to back someone else as the nominee, even though it would be nearly impossible to make a switch with the election just one month away.
Spencer Zwick, a top Republican fundraiser, said donors are backing away from Mr Trump.
"Major GOP donors are pulling support from Donald Trump and are now looking to fund an effort to back someone else as the Republican nominee," Mr Zwick said.
Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah announced he could no longer endorse Mr Trump, saying he wished his running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, was on the top of the ticket.
"I think we should all stand up and say we're not going to tolerate this," Mr Chaffetz, who heads the House Oversight Committee, said on CNN.
Mr Trump abruptly cancelled a planned appearance at a Wisconsin event with House Speaker Paul Ryan Saturday and said he would send Mr Pence instead. Mr Ryan, too, condemned Mr Trump's comments, saying, he was "sickened" by what he heard on the tape.
"Women are to be championed and revered, not objectified," he said. "I hope Mr Trump treats this situation with the seriousness it deserves and works to demonstrate to the country that he has greater respect for women than this clip suggests. In the meantime, he is no longer attending tomorrow's event in Wisconsin."
In the recording of a conversation Mr Trump had with Billy Bush, a television host, that took place before they taped a segment for Access Hollywood, Mr Trump brags about trying and failing to seduce a married woman. The tape was published by the Washington Post.
"I did try and f-- her. She was married," Mr Trump, whose third marriage began earlier that year, said in the video. He also said he would "grab them by the p--y," referring to women he was attracted to.
"And when you're a star they let you do it," he says. "You can do anything."
Mr Trump has survived criticism from both Republicans and Democrats over personal attacks he has made. Mr Trump said a federal judge couldn't fairly consider a case involving Trump University because of his Mexican heritage.
He attacked Gold Star parents who spoke out against him. Mr Trump went after a former Miss Universe who publicly criticised him for comments he'd made about her gaining weight.
He launched his campaign with a speech in which he said immigrants coming to the US from Mexico are rapists and drug dealers.