WASHINGTON - Embattled 2016 U.S. Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump said Sunday he would be a strong White House advocate for women, dismissing the contention that he made a crude remark about a female television anchor who asked him a tough question at last week's debate.
"I cherish women," the billionaire real estate mogul said in one of several television interviews. The three-times-married Trump said he had hired thousands of women in his businesses, describing them as "amazing executives."
The political neophyte has soared to the top in surveys of Republican voters over a large field of experienced candidates, winning the support of conservatives angered at politics-as-usual in Washington. But he drew new controversy to his candidacy after he castigated Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly for asking him in the debate about the string of disparaging comments he has made about women over the years.
A day after the debate, Trump said, "You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming coming out of her wherever," a remark widely construed by women and men alike as referring to Kelly's menstrual cycle. Trump said only a deviant would think of the comment as such, saying it referenced blood from her nose.
But the only woman in the Republican contest, Carly Fiorina, a one-time U.S. technology executive, said women were "horrified" by Trump's remark and several other Republican presidential hopefuls also criticized him.
"I apologize when I'm wrong, but I haven't been wrong," Trump told one interviewer Sunday. "I'm leading by double digits, so maybe I shouldn't change."
Prior to last week's debate, the surveys have showed Trump collecting a fifth or more of the support of Republican voters, doubling the sentiment for his closest challenger, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, the son and brother of two U.S. presidents. In all, 17 candidates are vying for the Republican nomination, with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton the leading Democratic presidential contender.
Trump's support has shown no signs of waning in face of two other controversial comments he made. He castigated illegal Mexican immigrants to the U.S. as rapists and murderers and questioned whether Senator John McCain, the Republicans' 2008 presidential candidate, was a hero after spending five years as a North Vietnamese prisoner of war in the 1960s.