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Donald Trump Admits Regret, Wrongdoing During 'Heat of Debate'

Debate 2016: Trump on Thursday made one of his most landmark changes yet: he expressed regret — though it remains unclear what specifically he was referencing.
Donald Trump
Donald Trump delivers a campaign speech in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday.Gerald Herbert / AP

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Donald Trump just made one of his biggest changes yet: he expressed regret and admitted wrong doing — though it’s unclear exactly for what.

In prepared remarks given Thursday night in battleground North Carolina, Trump explained his past year of controversy-filled remarks as misspeaks in the "heat of debate."

"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," Trump said. "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."

Still, Trump promised the same honesty that his supporters say they love about him. "I will always tell you the truth," Trump said.

Donald Trump
Donald Trump delivers a campaign speech in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday.Gerald Herbert / AP

In a moment apparent self-reflection Trump said "sometimes I can be too honest" — which, he is not — but then called Clinton “the exact opposite: she never tells the truth."

He did not, however, ever use the words "apologize" or "sorry."

The comments come as Trump’s campaign has jolted in from controversy to controversy, dropping in the polls, alienating voters, and prompting Republicans to distance themselves from the GOP nominee after such landmark moments as racist comments about a Mexican judge and a feud with a Gold Star family. After all, Trump began his campaign by referring to Mexicans as “rapists and murderers” and calling John McCain’s “hero” status into question, despite the Arizona senator and former Republican nominee’s time spent as a prisoner of war.

Since then, his comments have ranged from the allegedly “sarcastic” — calling President Obama the “founder of ISIS” — to the downright concerning — calling on "Second Amendment people" to take action (of the electoral or otherwise) against Hillary Clinton should she win in November and have the chance to appoint justices to the Supreme Court.

Thursday evening marked Trump's first public event since shaking up his campaign staff for the second time this election cycle — another event with Trump flanked by prompters that he previously mocked opponents for using.

Now, Trump is coming as close to the "pivot" so many expected for so long.

The question though, as it’s always been, is if he will fully turn the corner and embrace his new, reigned in, pre-written campaign persona.

Not all of his usual candor and flair was gone, however. Nor was the electricity and spontaneity of the crowd, who still found occasion to chant "lock her up" and scream about building the wall.

Still, his message was tempered and presented with a new coat of rhetorical paint.

Trump also pitched for the second time this week directly to African-American voters.

"If African-American voters give Donald Trump a chance by giving me their vote, the result for them will be amazing,” he claimed. "... It is time for change. What do you have to lose by trying something new? — I will fix it.”

Trump has not campaigned at all in any black communities this election cycle and his support with African-American voters ranges from zero percent in some battleground states to a whopping 1 percent in an NBC/WSJ national poll from earlier this month.