Trump done with apologies after debate, intensifies Clinton attacks
Donald Trump said Monday the firestorm over the “Access Hollywood” video that showed him bragging about groping women without their consent helped bring his campaign into sharper focus.
“The last 72 hours have explained what this election is all about. ... It's about Americans fighting back against the corrupt politicians,” Trump told an estimated 2,600 supporters inside a gymnasium at Ambridge Area High School in Beaver County in his first public appearance since the debate.
“I accept the mantle of this responsibility for all of us. ... My whole life I've been a fighter, and now, I'm going to fight for you,” Trump said.
A growing number of Americans, some of them members of his party's congressional delegation, have revoked their support or indicated they are less willing to accept Trump in the wake of the video scandal. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll conducted Saturday and Sunday showed that since the scandal broke Friday, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton has widened her lead to double digits.
GOP U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus of Sewickley and Mike Kelly of Butler spoke at the event before Trump arrived with Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani in tow.
Trump indicated from the start of his remarks Monday that he is done apologizing for the lewd comments he made in the video. He suggested he expected other videos or revelations may be coming but noted that such attacks only will make him more determined to “expose the hypocrisy” of Hillary and Bill Clinton.
“I was getting beaten up for 72 hours for inappropriate comments I made. ... Bill Clinton sexually assaulted innocent women, and Hillary Clinton attacked those women viciously,” Trump said, drawing boos from the audience.
Trump repeated his debate comments, calling former President Clinton “a predator” and “the worst abuser of women ever in the White House.”
“Instead of trying to stop his predatory behavior, she put even more women in harm's way,” he said.
Trump blamed the news media for coverage of his comments.
“The hypocrites in the media don't want to talk about what Hillary Clinton has done,” Trump said. “They condemn my words, but they defend ... the reprehensible actions of Hillary and Bill Clinton.”
Trump said this election could be “the last chance we're going to have to save our country.”
After arriving late at the gym, Trump waved a Terrible Towel as supporters held up black and gold letters spelling his name. Trump remarked about a golf outing he was on with Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger where the latter reportedly drove a golf ball into a tree, calling Big Ben a strong guy and a friend. Roethlisberger has previously denied the characterization of the two as friends.
Throughout the 45-minute speech, Trump bounced back and forth among issues that have become staples of his campaign: enacting tougher immigration laws, repealing Obamacare and promising to protect veterans, the Second Amendment, middle-class Americans and small-business and manufacturing jobs.
Trump mentioned some issues more than others — in particular, how he would breathe new life into Western Pennsylvania's steel industry and preserve coal miners' jobs. He didn't say how.
Trump spoke at length about Hillary Clinton's email scandal, which elicited chants of “Lock her up” from the crowd.
“Special prosecutor, here we come,” Trump said, alluding to the promise he made during Sunday's debate to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate and prosecute Clinton if he's elected.
Trump described the second debate as “a lot of fun,” and said, “Hillary is highly overrated.”
Afterward, he headed for Wilkes-Barre in eastern Pennsylvania, another signal of the importance of the Keystone State this election year.
Public safety officials turned away several thousand more supporters at the gym's entrance for safety reasons, despite Trump's criticism that they should be let inside. Those outside watched Trump's speech on a large screen in an adjacent parking lot.
Supporters began showing up before 7 a.m.
“I support the man, so I had to be here,” said Janson Keener-Johnson, 17, of New Brighton, who arrived at 6:50 a.m. with friends Jacob Kruise, 17, and Keaton Haas, 18.
Only Haas will be able to vote in November. “I don't support Donald Trump. I support Hillary for prison,” he said.
By late morning, supporters lined the west side of Duss Avenue for more than four blocks. Protesters occupied the east side of Duss in the area of the gymnasium. The two groups argued and heckled each other across the street for hours.
In line for the rally, Matt Waite, 28, of Ambridge described himself as a “proud deplorable,” referring to Clinton's comment that half of Trump's supporters are a “basket of deplorables ... racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic, you name it.”
As he looked across the street at Clinton supporter Sandie Griffith, 60, of Ambridge, Waite said, “I don't understand how people can support Hillary. They're blind.”
Tom Fontaine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.