ST. LOUIS—In a debate filled with tension, Donald Trump accused Hillary Clinton of attacking women involved in her husband’s marital affairs and declared she would “be in jail” if he were president. Staring icily at her Republican rival, Clinton said Trump’s own aggressively vulgar comments about women had revealed “exactly who he is.”
Sunday night’s debate was the culmination of a stunning stretch in the race for the White House, which began with the release of a new video in which Trump is heard bragging about how his fame allowed him to “do anything” to women. A flood of Republicans revoked their support, with some calling for him to drop out of the race.
Answering for his words for the first time, Trump denied that he had ever kissed and grabbed women without their consent. He said repeatedly that his words in 2005 were merely “locker room talk” and paled in comparison to what he called Bill Clinton’s abuse of women.
“She should be ashamed of herself,” Trump declared. Ahead of the debate, the businessman met with three women who accused the former president of sexual harassment and even rape, then invited them to sit in the debate hall.
Bill Clinton never faced any criminal charges in relation to the allegations, and a lawsuit over an alleged rape was dismissed. He did settle a lawsuit with one of the women who claimed harassment.
On the debate stage, Clinton did not respond directly to Trump’s accusations about her husband or her own role, but was blistering in her condemnation of his predatory comments about women in the tape released Friday.
“I think it’s clear to anyone who heard him that it represents exactly who he is,” she said, adding that she did not believe Trump had the “fitness to serve” as commander in chief.
The second debate was a town hall format, with several undecided voters sitting on stage with the candidates. The voters, all from the St. Louis area, were selected by Gallup.
The tension between Trump and Clinton was palpable from the start of their 90-minute debate, the second time they have faced off in the presidential campaign. They did not shake hands as they met at center stage.