ST. LOUIS, Oct. 9 (UPI) -- Sunday's second presidential debate opened with fireworks between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, with Trump calling the video that surfaced of him laughing about groping women embarrassing "locker room talk" and threatening to put Clinton in jail if he's elected.
Clinton responded to the video scandal, saying it is the most recent evidence Trump is unfit to serve as president.
"It is awfully good that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the laws of our country," Clinton said.
"Because you'd be in jail," Trump shot back, moments after he threatened to appoint a special prosecutor if he's elected to investigate Clinton's private email server.
The tone of the evening was set as soon as the two candidates walked on stage. Both stood next to one another after being introduced and neither moved to shake the other's hand, normally the Politics 101 show of congeniality between political opponents at the outset of a debate.
Sunday's debate comes two days after Trump's campaign was rocked by a release of a hot mic video recording in an interview with Access Hollywood in 2005, during which Trump boasted to host Billy Bush about trying to coerce women to have sex with him. In vulgar terms, Trump described coming onto a married woman and forcing himself on other women by kissing them and grabbing their genitals. He said they let him do it because he's "a star."
Moderators Anderson Cooper and Martha Raddatz pressed Trump on that, asking whether he had ever actually done anything to a woman like what he described on the tape. Trump said, "no, I have not."
"I have great respect for women. Nobody has more respect for women than I do," he said.
Clinton took on the issue, saying it is further confirmation of what she said in a speech in June -- and has repeated throughout the campaign -- that Trump is unfit for the presidency in ways that are different than her opposition to past Republican candidates.
"You know, with other Republican nominees, obviously I've disagreed with them on politics, policies, principles, but I never questioned their fitness to serve. Donald Trump is different. I said starting back in June he was not fit to be president and commander-in-chief. Many Republicans and independents have said the same thing."
Trump released a video early Saturday during which he apologized for his comments. He also threatened to bring up Bill Clinton's history of marital infidelity as a response.
He did just that less than two hours prior to the start of the debate, calling in reporters to allow four women who have accused Clinton of sexual misconduct in the past to repeat those allegations.
He did it again in the opening moments, saying his comments in the video were words, but Bill Clinton's actions are different.
"If you look at Bill Clinton, far worse. Mine are words, his was action. There's never been anybody in the history of politics as abusive to women. Bill Clinton was abusive to women. Hillary Clinton attacked those same women and attacked them viciously," Trump said.
He told Clinton she should be "ashamed of herself."
"Hillary brings up a point like that and she talks about words I said 11 years ago, I think it's disgraceful and I think she should be ashamed of herself if you want to know the truth," he said.
Clinton offered no defense of her husband's history of marital infidelity, saying she preferred to take the high road.
"He gets to run his campaign any way he chooses. He decides what he wants to talk about," she said. "When I hear something like that I am reminded what my friend Michelle Obama reminded us all. When they go low, you go high."
The candidates also traded barbs over the hacking and release of Clinton's transcripts of paid speeches to bankers and other groups. The group WikiLeaks released emails on Friday purported to belong to Clinton's campaign chairman John Podesta, including transcripts of her six-figure speeches to Wall Street.
Specifically, Clinton was asked about one of the transcripts, where she told a business group she has one position in public and another in private. Clinton said she was referencing the film Lincoln and his efforts to lobby behind the scenes to pass the 13th Amendment during the Civil War.
"As I recall that was something I said about Abraham Lincoln after having seen the [film]. It was a master class, watching President Lincoln get Congress to pass the 13th Amendment, convincing some people he used some arguments. Convincing other people he used other arguments."
Trump seized on the explanation with a jab at Clinton.
"She lied, now she's blaming the lie on the late great Abraham Lincoln. That's one that I haven't [heard] ... honest Abe never lied. That's the difference between honest Abe and you. That's a big, big difference," he said.
Trump was asked about another story that has dogged his campaign, a report last week that he may not have paid any federal income tax since 1995, a year when he took a $916 million loss that would permit him to write off future income for an estimated 18 years.
Trump shot back at criticism of it from Clinton, saying all wealthy businessmen take advantage of the tax code and Clinton hasn't criticized the rich donors to her campaign for doing the same thing.
"All your friends take advantage of the same provisions that I do. You didn't change it so you could take their money and run negative ads on Donald Trump," he said.
Clinton and Trump addressed the Syrian civil war, with Clinton renewing her pledge she would not put U.S. ground forces into use to stop the fighting.
In contrast with a comment pointed out by the moderator by Trump's running mate Gov. Mike Pence, Trump said he disagreed with Pence's position and would not confront Russia, which is propping up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
At the conclusion of the contentious town hall debate, which included questions from undecided voters who live near the debate site at Washington University in St. Louis, one voter asked a question that elicited a palpable sense of relief inside the auditorium. The man asked each candidate if they would say something they actually like about the other one.
After a sustained round of applause from the audience, both candidates did just that.
Clinton said she is impressed by Trump's children, who she called "incredibly able and devoted."
"I think that's something, as a mother and grandmother is very important to me," she said.
Trump said he considered the comment a compliment and returned one of his own, lauding Clinton as "a fighter."
"She doesn't quit, she doesn't give up. I respect that. She's a fighter. I disagree with much of what she's fighting for. But she does fight hard, she doesn't give up and I consider that a very important trait," he said.
The rare moment of congeniality at least moved the candidates from their posture when they walked on stage -- they did shake hands at the conclusion of the debate.