After what has surely been the worst week of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, the candidate has been trying out a new, very un-Trump-like tactic: admitting his mistakes. In a new interview with New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, the GOP front-runner admitted that he should not have retweeted a very unflattering image of Ted Cruz’s wife Heidi juxtaposed with a glam shot of Trump’s wife Melania.
“Yeah, it was a mistake,” he told Dowd, conceding that “If I had to do it again, I wouldn’t have sent it.” Trump offered a similar mea culpa on Fox News Sunday, acknowledging he “could have done without” the retweet, although he still didn’t think it was “particularly bad.”
Trump also admitted in the Fox News interview that he shouldn’t have bungled one of his (many, disparate) abortion statements last week. Host Chris Wallace mentioned to Trump that his comment that women who violated an abortion ban should face “some sort of punishment” had done something “pretty remarkable” in that it “offended both the pro-life and the pro-choice movements with one statement.” Trump initially hedged in his response, suggesting that he was put in an impossible situation answering a “hypothetically asked” question about a hypothetical situation. Trump also tried to excuse his answer because “there would have been a very strong conservative, a very conservative group that would have said that was the appropriate answer.”
“Do you agree it was a mistake?” Wallace pressed.
“Well, I — as a hypothetical question, I would have rather asked it — you know, answered it in a different manner, yes. I would have rather answered it in a different manner,” Trump responded.
Trump then tried additionally to write off his comments as a result of his inexperience as a politician, insisting that as a businessman, he “was never asked many questions” and that he’s only “been a politician for a very short period of time” and “there’s always a learning curve.”
However, Wallace was not successful when he fished for an apology, or admission of error, regarding the incident in which Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, grabbed former Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields as she was trying to ask Trump a question at a campaign event last month in Florida. Lewandowski originally refuted Fields accusation, and even said she was “delusional,” but was subsequently charged with misdemeanor battery by police after security footage clearly showed him grabbing her arm and pulling her away from Trump at the event.
Afterward, Trump and his campaign backed up Lewandowski regarding the incident. His campaign called Fields’s accusation “entirely false” and Trump said she had “made up” the charge. Pressed on those facts by Wallace, Trump maintained his support of Lewandowski on Sunday, championing his sense of loyalty and how he refused to fire Lewandowski and “destroy” his life over the allegation or police charge. Trump also continued to suggest that Fields was still originally at fault, had exaggerated the incident, and needs to toughen up if she wants to be a reporter, ultimately insisting that he did not believe he had anything to apologize for, as this separate exchange with CBS’s John Dickerson, which also aired Sunday, emphasizes:
DICKERSON: But the question is, for you, as the person with the power in this relationship — you have got all these people working for you. You have got all these big, huge buildings. Why not be the bigger person and say, she was treated roughly, she was my guest, I apologize to her, and let’s move on?
TRUMP: Well, it’s not my job to apologize to her. I have nothing — I just happened to be walking through.
In Maureen Dowd’s interview, she got Trump to budge on the issue, glacially:
Wouldn’t it have been better, I asked, if Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski had simply called the reporter Michelle Fields and apologized for yanking her arm?
“You’re right, but from what I understand it wouldn’t have mattered,” Trump said.
Back on Fox News Sunday, Trump also gave a succinct overall explanation for why he doesn’t apologize, as a matter of principle, noting that, “A lot of times, when you apologize, they use it as ammunition against [you].” But by admitting a pair of mistakes and acknowledging his inexperience after such a dismal week, Trump has now gotten the closest he ever has to going on an apology tour, so perhaps he’s finally realized that projecting infallibility can wound you, just the same.