Ever since he started campaigning for president last year, Donald Trump has not been one to hold back.

But near the end of Monday night’s first presidential debate, the Republican nominee strangely pulled his punches after Hillary Clinton attacked him for his past statements on women.

Clinton said of Trump: “This is a man who has called women pigs, slobs, and dogs, and someone who has said pregnancy is an inconvenience to employers, who has said women don’t deserve equal pay unless they do as good a job as men, and one of the worst things he said was about a woman in a beauty contest. … He called this woman Miss Piggy, then he called her Miss Housekeeping because she was Latina. Donald, she has a name. Her name is Alicia Machado, and she has become a U.S. citizen and you can bet she’s going to vote this November.”

Given Trump’s history of hitting back hard, the audience may have expected a strong counterpunch.

However, after briefly commenting about Hillary’s negative ads and Rosie O’Donnell, Trump said: “I was going to say something extremely rough to Hillary, to her family, and I said to myself, ‘I can’t do it, I just can’t do it. It’s inappropriate, it’s not nice.’

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“But she spent hundreds of millions of dollars in negative ads on me, many of which are absolutely untrue. They’re untrue and they’re misrepresentations, and I will tell you this, Lester: it’s not nice, and I don’t deserve that, but it’s certainly not a nice thing that she’s done.”

Trump’s mild response left Americans to wonder what “extremely rough” thing he was going to say about Hillary and her family: perhaps a comment about Bill Clinton’s past mistreatment of women and Hillary’s efforts to silence her husband’s victims.

But instead, the candidate known for getting down in the mud chose to take the high road at a moment when Clinton appeared to set him up to score points.

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