By David Willman, Tribune Washington Bureau (TNS)
WASHINGTON — Donald Trump remained at center stage of the Republican presidential contest Sunday, clarifying his rebuke of a Fox News anchor while wielding new broadsides against his rivals, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
With polls showing Trump atop the crowded Republican field, the billionaire real-estate impresario was interviewed on four political talk shows.
Trump said he had intended nothing vulgar when he complained on Friday about Fox News’ Megyn Kelly, who, while co-moderating a GOP candidates’ debate the previous night, had pointedly questioned his disparagement of women he did not like as “fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals.”
In his post-debate interview about Kelly, Trump told CNN, “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.”
On Sunday, Trump said, as his campaign had in a statement Saturday, that “only a deviant” would suggest his comment referred to menstruation.
CNN’s Jake Tapper, host of “State of the Union,” pressed Trump, asking, “You’re saying that you did not mean to suggest that Megyn Kelly was having her period?”
Trump replied, “Of course I didn’t.”
Trump reiterated his assertion that Kelly had questioned him unfairly during the Fox News-sponsored event, which drew an estimated 24 million viewers, a record for a non-general election debate. He attributed the uproar over his criticisms to “political correctness.”
Trump, who spoke by telephone rather than on camera during each of the Sunday interviews, sought to shift scrutiny to comments that Bush made on Tuesday. Bush, appearing that day before ministers at a Southern Baptist convention in Nashville, Tenn., said, in part, “I’m not sure we need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues.” (Later, Bush said he had been referring only to federal dollars that go to Planned Parenthood.)
On Sunday, Trump said Bush’s statement might cripple his appeal to women.
“Jeb Bush, on women’s health issues, just destroyed his relationship with women,” Trump said on ABC’s “This Week,” adding, “what he said about women and women’s health issues was ridiculous.”
On CNN, Trump called Bush’s comments “disgraceful” and said that his own position on “women’s health” is “the exact opposite. I cherish women. I want to help women. I’m going to do things for women that no other candidate will be able to do.”
Trump’s disparaging of Kelly drew renewed criticism Sunday from another presidential contender, former Hewlett-Packard Chief Executive Carly Fiorina. In appearances on CNN and on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Fiorina said Trump’s comments called his temperament into question.
“Women of all kinds are really sort of horrified by this,” Fiorina said on CBS. “I think you cannot have a president who is thin-skinned. If you think a (moderator’s) question is tough, imagine the pressure of actually being in the Oval Office.”
Asked about Fiorina, who had earlier tweeted her disapproval of him, Trump said she was trying to gain ground at his expense but has “zero chance” of winning the nomination.
(c)2015 Tribune Co. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
Photo: Republican 2016 U.S. presidential candidate businessman Donald Trump speaks during the first official Republican presidential candidates debate of the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign in Cleveland, Ohio, August 6, 2015. REUTERS/Brian Snyder