WASHINGTON (AFP) — Since launching his White House campaign in June 2015, Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump has several times walked back comments that got him in hot water.
Here are nine times when Trump distanced himself from his own comments:
1. John McCain
In July 2015, Trump said Republican senator and former prisoner of war John McCain was “not a war hero,” adding: “He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured, OK?”
The remark sparked immediate consternation among Republicans. The next day, Trump — then embroiled in a primary battle with a host of challengers — said, “Four times, I said he is a hero. But you know… people choose little selective pieces.”
2. Megyn Kelly
Annoyed by the questions that Fox News reporter Megyn Kelly asked him in the first Republican presidential primary debate in August 2015, Trump said the following day: “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her wherever.”
Was he referring to Kelly’s menstrual period? Many believed he was.
Trump told CNN: “I didn’t even finish the thought. I was going to say nose and/or ears, because that’s a very common statement, blood flowing out of somebody’s nose.”
“If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously. Just knock the hell — I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees. I promise. I promise,” Trump told his supporters in February.
The next month, after one of his supporters hit a protester, Trump said: “I don’t condone violence, and I didn’t say I was going to pay for the fees.”
4. Nuclear weapons for Japan
Should Japan have its own nuclear weapons to defend themselves against North Korea?
In a March interview with The New York Times, Trump said: “Would I rather have North Korea have them with Japan sitting there having them also? You may very well be better off if that’s the case.”
After criticism from his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, Trump said: “She was saying last night so many things. Donald Trump wants to see Japan get nuclear weapons. I never said that.”
5. Cruz’s dad and Oswald
“(Cruz’s) father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald being, you know, shot,” Trump said in May of the father of his primary rival Ted Cruz, citing an article in the tabloid National Enquirer. Oswald was the man who assassinated US president John F. Kennedy in 1963.
The allegation about Cruz’s father stirred up a media firestorm. This time, Trump did not deny he made the comments, but denied any responsibility for them, saying he was just quoting the Enquirer.
“I just asked about stories that were appearing all over the place, not just in the National Enquirer, about the fact that a picture was taken of him and Lee Harvey Oswald. They didn’t deny that picture,” he told NBC’s “Today” show.
6. Disabled journalist
In November 2015, Trump criticized a statement by journalist Serge Kovaleski, who suffers from a congenital disorder that limits the functioning of his joints, forcing his arm to be curled in front of him.
The candidate flailed his arms and shook his head as if to imitate Kovaleski, saying: “Now, the poor guy, you ought to see this guy, ‘Ah, I don’t know what I said, I don’t remember.”
In June on Twitter, in response to a Clinton ad using the video sequence, Trump said: “Clinton made a false ad about me where I was imitating a reporter GROVELING after he changed his story. I would NEVER mock disabled. Shame!”
7. Vladimir Putin
“I got to know him very well because we were both on ’60 Minutes’. We were stablemates, and we did very well that night,” Trump said of Russian President Vladimir Putin, sparking waves on the US political left and right.
Later, the notion that they met on the set was debunked, as they were in different cities when their interviews were taped.
In July, Trump said: “I have no relationship with him.”
8. Russian hackers
“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump said in July, referring to Clinton’s private email server which she used during her time as secretary of state.
The remark was interpreted as an invitation to Russian intelligence services to hack his rival.
“Of course, I’m being sarcastic,” he said the next day.
9. Second Amendment and Clinton
“Hillary wants to essentially abolish the Second Amendment,” Trump told a rally in Wilmington, North Carolina on Tuesday, referring to the US Constitution’s clause that enshrines the right to bear arms.
“If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks,” Trump said. “Although the Second Amendment people — maybe there is, I don’t know.”
His meaning was ambiguous, but the remark was seen as a possible threat of violence against Clinton or her Supreme Court nominees.
Later the same night, on Fox News, the candidate rejected that interpretation, saying: “This is a political movement. This is a strong powerful movement, the Second Amendment. (…) There can be no other interpretation.”