Donald Trump said Thursday that he was sorry for causing “personal pain” with the inflammatory comments that he has become known for during his fourteen months on the campaign trail.
“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,” Trump told rally-goers in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“And believe it or not, I regret it,” he continued, as some in the crowd laughed and others chanted the candidate’s name. “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. But one thing; I can promise you this: I will always tell you the truth.”
This speech, which the Republican nominee read from a teleprompter, was Trump’s first public address since he reshuffled his senior staff, hiring Breitbart News’ Steve Bannon as the campaign CEO and GOP pollster Kellyanne Conway as campaign manager.
Though Trump did not say which of his comments he regretted, the apology marked a striking change of tone for a candidate who has seemed to relish high-profile disagreements with everyone from a federal judge to the parents of a Gold Star Muslim family.
His attempt to make amends with voters he has offended during the 2016 race and his increasing reliance on prepared remarks suggest that his campaign is trying to keep the free-wheeling candidate on track. With Trump’s poll numbers slagging and only a few months left in the race, his team seems to be acknowledging that the time to make inroads with wary undecided voters is now.
For the second time this week—after a speech in the Milwaukee suburbs Tuesday—Trump in his remarks Thursday made an appeal to black voters, accusing Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party of pandering to win their votes.
“What do you have to lose by trying something new? Watch, I will fix it. Watch. You have nothing to lose,” Trump said. “They have been playing with you for 60, 70, 80 years. Many, many decades. You have nothing to lose. I will do a great job.”
The Clinton campaign dismissed Trump’s apology and appeal to minorities as too little, too late.
“Donald Trump literally started his campaign by insulting people,” Clinton spokeswoman Christina Reynolds said in a statement, referring to the infamous campaign announcement speech in which Trump called Mexican immigrants “criminals” and “rapists.”
“He has continued to do so through each of the 428 days from then until now, without shame or regret,” the statement continued. “We learned tonight that his speechwriter and teleprompter knows he has much for which he should apologize.”
As recently as Tuesday, Trump insisted that he did not want to “pivot” to appeal to a general election audience.
“I am who I am. It’s me. I don’t want to change,” he told local Wisconsin station WKDT.
Watch video of his comments in North Carolina via Real Clear Politics.