WASHINGTON • Mr Donald Trump, the Republican front runner for the presidential nomination, has fought off fresh accusations of sexism after he coined a vulgar new term of abuse while attacking his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
Whipping up a raucous crowd of supporters in Michigan on Monday night, Mr Trump's scorn for his Democratic rival took a sexually graphic and personal turn.
Recalling the 2008 presidential race, in which Mrs Clinton lost out to Mr Barack Obama in the battle for the Democratic nomination, the billionaire real estate mogul appeared to reach for a Yiddish term.
"She was favoured to win, and she got schlonged. She lost, I mean she lost," he said, turning the noun "schlong" - a penis - into a verb.
Then, with the partisan crowd cheering him on, he turned to an incident last Saturday when Mrs Clinton returned late to a televised debate after a bathroom break. "I know where she went, it's disgusting, I don't want to talk about it," Mr Trump said. "No, it's too disgusting. Don't say it, it's disgusting."
LOSING THE THREAD?
She was favoured to win, and she got schlonged. She lost, I mean she lost.
MR DONALD TRUMP, apparently turning the noun "schlong" - a penis - into a verb
Mrs Clinton did not address Mr Trump's comments directly, but when asked at a campaign rally what she would do about bullying, she used the opportunity to launch a not-so-veiled attack on him.
"We shouldn't let anybody bully his way into the presidency, because that is not who we are as Americans," Mrs Clinton told a crowd at a school in Keota, Iowa.
Mr Trump returned to the fray with a series of tweets flatly denying any intention to insult Mrs Clinton - and insisting that the offending term was commonplace slang.
"Once again, #MSM (mainstream media) is dishonest. 'Schlonged' is not vulgar. When I said Hillary got 'schlonged' that meant beaten badly," he tweeted on Tuesday night.
The outburst was not the first in which the thrice-married billionaire appeared to express distaste for women's bodily functions.
In August, he triggered outrage when he insinuated that Fox News host Megyn Kelly had subjected him to sharp questioning because she may have been menstruating.
Mr Trump's personal attacks on women extended to his Republican rival Carly Fiorina, of whom he declared: "Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that?"
Mrs Clinton's campaign communications director tweeted: "We are not responding to Trump but everyone who understands the humiliation this degrading language inflicts on all women should."
Mr Trump has ridden out all the fury directed his way after previous outbursts. Polls show he remains the front runner for the Republican nomination.
For Mrs Clinton, however, Mr Trump's attacks could put her in a position of strength.
In her first debate as a candidate for elective office in 2000, her Republican opponent Rick Lazio infamously walked across a debate stage, wagged his finger and demanded she sign a campaign finance pledge. In the same debate, moderator Tim Russert elicited gasps from the audience when he asked Mrs Clinton a blunt question about her husband's infidelity.
"It reminds the women who love her so much of the kinds of things that professional and successful women have to go through every day. So it solidifies and strengthens her core female vote, which is fantastic for her," said Mr Steve McMahon, a Democratic strategist.
"She's no stranger to (such attacks). And no one handles it more adroitly than Hillary Clinton does... It's a reminder that she's at her best and strongest when under attack."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG