Bill Clinton remains stony faced as Donald Trump raises rape accusations
When faced with accusations over his own historic comments about groping women, Donald Trump turned the conversation back into an attack on Bill Clinton's past sexual improprieties.
The former president was there to listen as Mr Trump launched his blistering critique. Also in the audience was a group of women who allege that Mr Clinton sexually assaulted them in the past.
Mr Clinton has had some practice at dealing with similar historic allegations of rape, with a speech he give on Saturday interrupted by a Trump-supporting heckler yelling: "Bill Clinton is a rapist".
Throughout Sunday, Trump supporters worked to get images of Mr Clinton ranking on Google for a search of the word "rapist" - apparently successfully.
And in the couple of hours before Sunday night's debate, Mr Trump held a surprise news conference with four women, two of whom accuse Mr Clinton of committing sexual violence, while a third accuses Ms Clinton of condoning it.
So Mr Clinton was likely braced for Mr Trump's response to the first questions of the TV debate, in which he was asked about the 2005 Access Hollywood recordings released on Friday showing him making sexually aggressive comments about women.
Answering for his words for the first time, Trump denied he had ever kissed and grabbed women without their consent. He said repeatedly that his words in 2005 were merely "locker room talk" and paled in comparison to what he called Bill Clinton's abuse of women.
"He lost his licence. He had to pay an $850,000 fine.
"There's never been anybody in the history of politics that has been so abusive to women," he said.
Criminal charges have never been brought against former president Clinton for any accusations of sexual assault, and he has repeatedly denied the claims through his lawyer.
On the debate stage, Ms Clinton did not respond directly to Mr Trump's accusations about her husband or her own role, but was blistering in her condemnation of his predatory comments about women in the tape released Friday.
"I think it's clear to anyone who heard him that it represents exactly who he is," she said, adding that she did not believe Trump had the "fitness to serve" as commander in chief.
Mr Trump did not quite let her have the last word on the matter, however, after stating that if he won the election he would appoint a special prosecutor to look into allegations of wrongdoing against his opponent over her use of a private email server.
"Everything he just said is absolutely false but I'm not surprised," she responded. "It's just awfully good that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law in our country."
"Because you'd be in jail," he quipped back, to the biggest reaction of the night from the live studio audience.
Independent News Service