Donald Trump on Sunday accused former president Bill Clinton of being "abusive to women" in a presidential debate, shattering the last vestiges of political decorum in a hypercharged campaign season.
After apologizing for "locker room talk" in which he bragged about grabbing women's genitals and forcibly kissing them, the Republican White house nominee said those were just words, whereas "Bill Clinton was abusive to women."
Trump faces a make-or-break moment with Sunday's second presidential debate, after his lewd boasts, caught on tape in 2005 and made public Friday, brought sweeping condemnation from within his own party and calls for him to step aside.
With his campaign in chaos, Trump has stepped up his attacks on the former president, asserting that Bill Clinton has a history of abusing women.
In a bombshell development moments before faced the Democrat Hillary Clinton in the debate, Trump staged a surprise appearance with several women who have accused Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct.
Introduced by Trump as "very courageous women," his invited speakers included Paula Jones, a former government employee in Arkansas who sued Bill Clinton for sexual harassment, and Juanita Broaddrick, also of Arkansas, who claims that Clinton raped her in 1978.
"Mr Trump may have said some bad words," Broaddrick said, seated next to Trump during a panel broadcast live on Facebook. "But Bill Clinton raped me and Hillary Clinton threatened me. I don't think there's any comparison."
Trump's invited speakers also included Kathleen Willey, a former White House volunteer who has alleged Bill Clinton assaulted her in 1993, and Kathy Shelton, who has attacked Hillary Clinton over her role in defending her alleged rapist as a young lawyer 40 years ago.
Bill Clinton's accusers were present in the audience, as guests of the Trump campaign, at Sunday's debate in St Louis. The former president himself was also present in the debate hall.