Trump Apologizes For Not Always Using The Right Words

Aug 19, 2016
Originally published on August 19, 2016 8:01 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

The shakeup in Donald Trump's campaign goes on. This morning, the campaign announced that veteran Republican strategist Paul Manafort has resigned as campaign chairman. This comes after he was demoted from running the day-to-day campaign for the Republican nominee.

And not just a change in personnel - at least last night, also a change in tone from the candidate. In Charlotte, N.C., Donald Trump was in rare form. He was contrite.

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DONALD TRUMP: Sometimes, in the heat of debate and speaking on a multitude of issues, you don't choose the right words, or you say the wrong thing. I have done that.

GREENE: And after a long pause, Donald Trump added this.

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TRUMP: And believe it or not, I regret it.

GREENE: That expression of regret was a much different tone than Trump has presented on this campaign so far. NPR's Scott Detrow was at that speech in Charlotte. He joins us on the line.

Scott, good morning.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Morning, David.

GREENE: So the big question that we've been asking all week and for some time is, was there going to be a new Donald Trump? Is this a new Donald Trump you saw last night?

DETROW: For the moment, at least, it is. And, you know, Donald Trump needed to present a new image. He's been sinking in the polls lately, in key states like North Carolina, but also on questions like whether voters see him as someone with the temperament to be president.

But the Trump campaign is banking on the fact that people can change their minds and that Republicans may come back to him if he gives them a reason to.

GREENE: Yeah. There's, like, 80 days left. I mean, there is time.

DETROW: Right. And I met one woman who falls exactly into that camp. Her name's Amy Boyd (ph). She came because she said she definitely doesn't want to vote for Clinton, but she just doesn't know if she can vote for Trump. She said she's just really wary of the way he's handled himself on the campaign.

AMY BOYD: Well, like I said, I'd like for him to grow up and show a little decorum and maturity and listen to people who know more than he does.

GREENE: Wow, demanding that Trump grow up - that sort of set the stage perfectly for what was about to happen. So Trump comes on stage, gives this speech, what - take me through it. How did people react?

DETROW: You know those moments on the campaign where people following it closely just kind of snap to attention...

GREENE: Yeah.

DETROW: ...Stop, you know, typing notes and then say, whoa, something different is going on here.

GREENE: (Laughter) Totally, yeah.

DETROW: I mean, that was the case because this was so different than what he's done all year. He expressed that regret. But then he talked a lot about that law-and-order message we've been hearing. But he also talked broadly about the economy, about improving education, addressing poverty, talking about how education is key to providing opportunities. At one point, he said, let our children be dreamers, too.

This was a pretty broad message, clearly aimed at moderates and Independents and even some of those year-to-year Republicans who are wondering what's going on with this campaign.

GREENE: So did did a reporter's dream come true? Were you able to find Amy after the speech and get her take?

DETROW: I was frantically looking for her. We did reconnect. And, you know, she was really impressed, especially with that regret. She said that showed some accountability.

BOYD: That was the first thing that impressed me, yeah. And I know he can't do everything he says. But nobody can. But the point is, he knows what needs to be done.

DETROW: But she qualified that, like you said - Amy said there are 80 days left, and a lot can happen. So she's going to keep listening closely. And, you know, that's true. Trump has shown many times one stray comment can undo a lot of this momentum.

And I think, just as important, he still said everything he said. And a lot of people have been really offended by those comments. And you can't just undo that with one speech.

GREENE: Any reaction to the speech yet from Hillary Clinton?

DETROW: It may be surprising. They were not impressed with this speech. The Clinton campaign sent out a statement. They said that Donald Trump started this campaign by insulting people; he's continued to do so throughout the entire campaign - their quote was, "without shame or regret." So they're not buying it. But that comes back to the ongoing question of this year; will the change last?

A lot of people who watched this speech said it had the fingerprints of one of Trump's new advisers, Kellyanne Conway. She's someone who's going to be on the road with him, working with him day in, day out. And she's someone who has a track record of reaching out to women voters, and that's particularly where Trump needs to make up this gap in the polls.

GREENE: OK, talking to NPR's Scott Detrow, on the campaign trail in Charlotte, N.C. Thanks, Scott.

DETROW: Thanks, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.