WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A top adviser to Donald Trump apologized on Tuesday for making “inarticulate” comments on the subject of marital rape that have ignited the latest in a series of political controversies involving the Republican presidential candidate.
The comments by Michael Cohen, special counsel to the Trump Organization, were included in a Daily Beast report that said Trump’s ex-wife Ivana once used the word “rape” to describe a 1989 encounter with him.
Cohen responded to the report by saying “by the very definition, you can’t rape your spouse,” the Daily Beast said.
Marital rape is illegal in every U.S. state.
Cohen also threatened legal action against the news outlet, saying “I will take you for every penny you still don’t have.”
On Tuesday, Cohen said in a statement he was incensed by the story and made comments he did not believe.
“As an attorney, husband and father there are many injustices that offend me but nothing more than charges of rape or racism. They hit me at my core,” Cohen said. “In my moment of shock and anger, I made an inarticulate comment - which I do not believe – and which I apologize for entirely.”
A spokeswoman for the Trump campaign said Trump “didn’t know of Mr. Cohen’s comments, but disagrees with him.”
Trump, who leads or ranks near the top of the Republican presidential field in recent polls, has courted controversy during the campaign by mocking Senator John McCain’s war record, making incendiary comments about Mexican immigrants and launching personal attacks against his Republican rivals.
The Daily Beast said Ivana Trump’s allegations, made in a deposition during their divorce, were reported in a 1993 book, “Lost Tycoon: The Many Lives of Donald J. Trump.”
She said in the book that she did not make a criminal accusation against her ex-husband but “felt violated,” the Daily Beast reported. On Tuesday, she said in a statement the story was “without merit.”
“I have recently read some comments attributed to me from nearly 30 years ago at a time of very high tension during my divorce from Donald,” she said, adding she thought her ex-husband would make an “incredible president.”
Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz said Cohen’s remarks were “a new low. Rape is rape. Full stop. End of story.”
Editing by John Whitesides and Lisa Shumaker