Washington: Donald Trump was scratched from a Republican Party event Saturday for suggesting that a presidential debate moderator was tough on him because she was menstruating.
The off-handed comment unleashed a new storm of criticism of Trump as he seeks the party`s nomination for next year`s election and leads in the polls.
And it put him in furious damage control mode as he sought repeatedly to nuance his latest headline-grabbing remark.
The bombastic billionaire came under fire from his party after a particularly crude accusation that Fox News` Megyn Kelly, one of the moderators at Thursday`s Republican presidential debate, had singled him out with rough treatment.
Trump had already called out the station`s moderators for asking "unfair" questions after Kelly brought up his use of derogatory language towards women in Twitter posts. Kelly asked him if this was befitting a man running to be the US president.
But he turned up the tone Friday evening when he told CNN that Kelly "is just somebody I didn`t have a lot of respect for."
"You can see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever," he continued.
By Saturday, Trump`s invitation to a prominent grassroots Republican event in Atlanta -- RedState Gathering -- had been rescinded.
"As much as I do personally like Donald Trump, his comment about Megyn Kelly on CNN is a bridge too far for me," said conservative pundit Erick Erickson, editor of the conservative RedState blog and organizer of the event drawing conservative activists. Trump was to have spoken at it.
In America, states that generally vote Republican are commonly referred to as "red states."
"His comment was inappropriate. It is unfortunate to have to disinvite him," Erickson continued, adding that he would invite Kelly in Trump`s place.
Carly Fiorina, the only female Republican presidential candidate, tweeted: "Mr. Trump: There. Is. No. Excuse."
She later added "I stand with @megynkelly."
Wisconsin governor and Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker followed suit, tweeting: "I agree with @CarlyFiorina, there`s no excuse for Trump`s comments. Stand with @MegynKelly."
Speaking at the RedState Gathering itself, Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee said the comments were a reflection on Trump, not the party, Politico reported.
"I hope he apologizes because I think he should," Huckabee said separately to CNN.Trump meanwhile backtracked from the comment about Kelly, stating that he was not referring to any one particular body part with his remark on blood.
"Re Megyn Kelly quote: `you could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever` (NOSE). Just got on w/thought," Trump tweeted.
"So many `politically correct` fools in our country. We have to all get back to work and stop wasting time and energy on nonsense!" he also tweeted.
A statement from the Trump campaign widely cited by US media insisted that by the word "whatever" -- even though Trump actually said "wherever" -- Trump meant nose, "but wanted to move on to more important topics. Only a deviant would think anything else."
The statement also called Erickson "a total loser."
And apparently as part of the spin doctoring effort, Trump is now scheduled to appear Sunday on ABC television on one of the top US current events programs, "This Week."
A staggering 24 million viewers tuned in to Fox News to watch the debate, and Trump was clearly a main factor.
In a brutal tweet Friday he let the broadcaster know it.
"@FoxNews you should be ashamed of yourself. I got you the highest debate ratings in your history & you say nothing but bad," Trump tweeted to his 3.5 million followers.
The Republicans will host at least eight more debates as the party whittles down its broad field and determines its flagbearer to go up against likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
In the meantime, Trump is sitting out Saturday`s grassroots event.
".@redstate I miss you all, and thanks for all of your support. Political correctness is killing our country. `weakness,`" he tweeted.