Trump made the gesture at his first rally since ordering a shakeup in his campaign to save his struggling bid as Republican candidate for the US presidency.
“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 told a rally in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“I have done that. And believe it or not, I regret it,” he said, drawing laughs and applause from the crowd. “I do regret it. Particularly, where it may have caused personal pain.”
He added: “Too much is at stake for us to be consumed with these issues, but one thing I can promise you this, I will always tell you the truth.”
The New York billionaire’s multiple self-inflicted wounds of late have left him trailing in virtually every battleground state. One of the biggest was when he clashed repeatedly with the parents of an Army captain killed in Iraq.
Critics accused him last week of inciting violence against his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton in a remark about the right to bear arms, and media reports have swirled about a campaign in crisis and a candidate apparently incapable of reeling in crass remarks.
Clinton leads Trump 47 percent to 41.2 percent, according to the Real Clear Politics polling average, following weeks of errors that have alienated establishment Republicans and seen his own supporters tear their hair out.