Mr Donald Trump apologised early yesterday for lewd comments about women that he made in 2005, as he faced a barrage of criticism from within and outside his Republican Party in what many saw as the biggest crisis so far in his presidential campaign.
With the election less than a month away, the Washington Post had released a tape in which Mr Trump was heard talking about his attempts to have sex with a married woman. "I moved on her like a b****, but I couldn't get there. And she was married," he said during a taping for Access Hollywood.
He also bragged about his ability to "do anything" with women, even groping them. "When you're a star they let you do it. You can do anything."
In a video apology released by his campaign, he said: "Anyone who knows me knows these words don't reflect who I am. I said it, I was wrong, and I apologise."
Mr Trump insisted that being part of the presidential race and meeting people across the country had changed him and he pledged to "be a better man tomorrow".
WHAT TRUMP SAID YESTERDAY
Anyone who knows me knows these words don't reflect who I am. I said it, I was wrong, and I apologise.
In a video apology released by his campaign.
WHAT HE SAID IN 2005
I just start kissing them. And when you're a star they let you do it... You can do anything.
On how women were attracted to him.
I did try and **** her. She was married... I moved on her like a b****, but I couldn't get there.
On how he once pursued a married woman.
He later defied calls by some party members to quit, saying there was "zero chance" of that and that "I'd never withdraw".
He also tried to turn the tables on Democratic rival Hillary Clinton and her husband, former president Bill Clinton. "Bill Clinton has actually abused women, and Hillary has bullied, attacked, shamed and intimidated his victims," he said.
Mr Trump's unusual public contrition came as support for his campaign slipped another notch among his own party faithful. Many lawmakers started distancing themselves, with some calling for him to step aside in the race. Last Friday night, speaker Paul Ryan rescinded his invitation for Mr Trump to join him at an event in Wisconsin for the weekend and said he was "sickened" by the nominee's comments.
"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," said Mr Ryan.
House Representative Barbara Comstock from Virginia said in a statement: "In the light of these comments, Donald Trump should step aside and allow our party to replace him with Mike Pence or another appropriate nominee from the Republican Party."
Prior to the Washington Post bombshell, Mr Trump was already under fire for his comments towards women. Mrs Clinton capitalised on this during the first presidential debate, accusing him of calling a former Miss Universe winner "Miss Piggy" for gaining weight after the competition.
"This is a disaster for a disastrous campaign," said associate professor of political science Daniel Franklin of Georgia State University. "The apology won't work and he has got a debate tomorrow... He is just going to get hammered."
Associate professor of political science Kyle Kopko of Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania said: "If this doesn't end Trump, perhaps nothing will. This recording has significantly diminished his base of support among national Republican leaders, and with that, greatly narrows his chance for a victory in November."
The Clinton campaign also chimed in with a tweet: "This is horrific. We cannot allow this man to become president."
Prof Franklin believes more bad news may be headed Mr Trump's way in the coming weeks. "Opposition research will line up a series of charges getting worse as time goes along, and you release the bombshell two weeks or 10 days before the election."
He also believes some women voters might be "demotivated" to vote for Mr Trump.
"It does not mean they will vote for Hillary, but what it does mean is that it is more likely they will stay home and it will dampen turnout," he added.