Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton get down to business.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton get down to business. John Locher

US debate just gets nastier

YESTERDAY'S US presidential debate may go down as the most toxic and ill-tempered in history.

A defiant Donald Trump sought to deflect criticism of the now notorious sex tape, threatened to send Hillary Clinton to jail he if was elected and told millions of viewers his rival had "tremendous hate in her heart”.

He also directly raised the sexual history of Bill Clinton and said Mrs Clinton had attacked those women who had accused her husband of sexual assault.

Mrs Clinton said the tape released last week in which the tycoon was heard boasting of assaulting women was proof of the way he viewed women.

"He has said the video doesn't represent who he is, but I think it's clear to anyone who heard it that it represents exactly who he is,” she said.

The tense second encounter between the White House rivals came after Mr Trump had spent the previous 48 hours trying to divert attention from the fallout caused by the emergence of video audio in which he bragged about sexually assaulting women.

He said he was able to get away with such actions because of his celebrity.

With senior Republican leaders lining up to denounce him, and some calling on him to stand down as the party's nominee, Mr Trump was determined to change the narrative.

Just hours before the debate in St Louis, he held a media conference with women who had claimed to have been sexually assaulted by Bill Clinton.

In such circumstances, it was perhaps not surprising that the candidates did not shake hands when they took to the stage.

Within minutes, Mr Trump was asked about the tape.

"It was locker room banter. I'm not proud of it,” he said.

Mr Trump then said there were more serious issues confronting the country, including Islamic State "beheading people”.

"You hear these things I've said and I was embarrassed by it,” he added. "But I have tremendous respect for women. They have tremendous respect for me.”

Mr Trump tried to turn the discussion to Mr Clinton's history with women.

"If you look at Bill Clinton, far worse,” he said.

Mrs Clinton was asked about her use of a private email server and her deletion of more than 30,000 emails.

"You ought to be ashamed of yourself,” Mr Trump said.

Mrs Clinton said the FBI had fully investigated the issue of her emails and decided not to bring any criminal charges. She said she took the issue of classified material very seriously.

"You know it's just awfully good that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law in this country,” she said.

Mr Trump quickly shot back: "Because you'd be in jail. You said it was fine to delete 33,000 emails. I don't think so.”