Donald Trump says he regrets retweeting an unflattering photo of the wife of rival Ted Cruz, a rare move for the Republican front-runner more known for his boasts than backtracking.
"Yeah, it was a mistake," Trump told New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd in a column published Saturday. "If I had to do it again, I wouldn't have sent it."
The retweet set off a war of words between the two candidates, and gave fresh fuel to Democratic candidates and other critics who marveled at a Republican presidential race that had descended into a fight over the candidates' wives.
Trump retweeted the photo compilation showing an unflattering picture of Heidi Cruz and his own wife, Melania, after he accused Cruz of being behind or at least knowing about an ad that featured an old picture of Melania Trump posing nude for GQ magazine.
Cruz has denied any involvement in the ad, which was shared online. Cruz scolded Trump after the retweet, admonishing the businessman: "Donald, real men don't attack women."
The ad was created by the anti-Trump Make America Awesome Again super PAC and featured a photo shoot of Melania from 2000 with the meme caption: "Meet Melania Trump. Your next first lady. Or, you could support Ted Cruz on Tuesday."
The ad appeared to be an attempt influence the March 22 Utah primary, which Cruz won 69 percent to Trump's 14 percent. Ohio Gov. John Kasich came in second in Utah with 17 percent.
Trump is coming off a bruising week in which he repeatedly backtracked from comments he made about abortion and whether women should face "some form of punishment" for getting one if abortions were illegal.
Trump spoke with Dowd about the comments, which were made to Chris Matthews of MSNBC: "This was a hypothetical, so I thought of it in terms of a hypothetical. So that's where that answer came from, hypothetically."
In the Dowd column, Trump was asked whether it's possible he ever dated a woman who had an abortion. He ducked the question.
"Such an interesting question," Trump told Dowd, according to the column. "So what's your next question?"