Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump has refused to apologise for a crude attack on a female Fox News journalist, insisting he was misunderstood.
The brash billionaire found himself at the centre of controversy after seeming to suggest that Megyn Kelly, one of the moderators of last week's presidential debate, was tough on him because she was menstruating.
"You can see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever," Trump told CNN on Friday (local time).
The comment prompted the organiser of a major conservative forum in Atlanta to withdraw his invitation to the event.
But Trump said only "sick" people or a "deviant" would have concluded he was talking about Kelly's period.
"I cherish women. I want to help women," Trump said in a phone interview with CNN on Sunday.
"Who would make a statement like that? Only a sick person would even think about it."
When asked how so many of his fellow candidates and conservative pundits had reached the conclusion about his comment, Trump replied: "They want to be politically correct. They want to get points. I'm leading in the polls."
Trump nevertheless did not offer an apology, saying only that he had "nothing against" Kelly, but saying she asked "unfair" questions of him during the debate.
Trump's adversaries have seized the opportunity to score points against the unlikely frontrunner.
"There's no excuse for this," former Hewlett-Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina -- the only woman in the Republican field -- told Fox News Sunday.
"You don't get things done by insulting people."
Several of the candidates including Fiorina, and Jeb Bush have asked Trump to apologise. Kelly has so far not commented.
But the real estate mogul hit back Sunday at Bush, who had himself been in hot water over a comment on funding for women's health.
"Jeb was very negative on women's health. And when you're negative on women's health, you can forget about it," Trump said.