CHARLOTTE, North Carolina — Donald Trump, in a remarkable break with his characteristically unapologetic style, acknowledged Thursday that he has sometimes said “the wrong thing” and said he regretted some of his controversial statements.
“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. And believe it or not, I regret it. And I do regret it, particularly where it may have caused personal pain. Too much is at stake for us to be consumed with these issues,” Trump said while reading from prepared remarks during a campaign rally here.
He added: “But one thing I can promise you, is this: I will always tell you the truth.”
Trump’s public expression of regret came at his first rally since he made major changes to his campaign leadership earlier this week, installing a new campaign manager and bringing on a campaign CEO.
The real estate mogul did not say which of his numerous controversial statements he regretted, but his speech came as he sought to appeal to African-American voters, an important voting bloc in the battleground state of North Carolina.
Trump, reading from a teleprompter, vowed as president to address the poverty and unemployment that has disproportionally affected African-American communities and urged black voters to “give Donald Trump a chance.”
“The result for them will be amazing,” he said. “What do you have to lose by trying something new?”
A sharp turn
Trump’s expressed regrets mark a sharp turn from his strategy of admitting no fault, going back to the start of his campaign 14 months ago. When asked in interviews about specific instances where others have taken offense, Trump has always pushed back hard.
Asked in May whether he regretted denigrating Arizona Sen. John McCain’s five-and-a-half years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam last summer — “I like people that weren’t captured,” he said — Trump declined.
“I like not to regret anything,” Trump told radio host Don Imus nearly a year later. “You do things and you say things. And what I said, frankly, is what I said. And you know some people like what I said, if you want to know the truth. Many people like what I said. You know after I said that, my poll numbers went up seven points.”
The Republican took a similar approach after skirmishes broke out in March at a rally of his in Chicago, which was postponed for safety reasons.
Trump told CNN’s Don Lemon he had no regrets.
Most recently, Trump said he wouldn’t change anything about his response to Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the parents of a slain Muslim-American soldier.
“I don’t regret anything,” Trump told Washington, D.C. television station WJLA earlier this month. He pushed back against the couple for taking the stage at the Democratic National Convention and questioning whether Trump know what “sacrifice” meant.
“I said nice things about the son and I feel that very strongly, but of course I was hit very hard from the stage and you know it’s just one of those things. But no, I don’t regret anything.”
Trump did, however, acknowledge to The New York Times’ Maureen Dowd in April that retweeting an unflattering photo of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s wife, Heidi, was “a mistake.”
“If I had to do it again, I wouldn’t have sent it,” Trump said.