Melania Trump came to her husband’s defense Saturday, saying the vulgar comments the Republican nominee made in a newly uncovered video do “not represent the man that I know.”
Mrs. Trump said in a rare public statement that the words her husband used in the 2005 footage released Friday were “unacceptable and offensive to me.”
But she said that the words do “not represent the man that I know,” adding, “He has the heart and mind of a leader.”
Trump was newly married to Melania when he bragged on tape about trying to have sex with married women and groping others without permission.
Mrs. Trump said she “hopes people will accept his apology, as I have, and focus on the important issues facing our nation and the world.”
Trump was huddling Saturday with a close circle of advisers in New York, a day after damaging revelations about his comments about women.
Most of his campaign staff and network of supporters were left in the dark about the fast-moving developments.
A person close to the Trump operation who spoke on condition of anonymity said staff calls were canceled and surrogates were not given guidance on how to respond to the controversy. The person insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss internal campaign dynamics publicly.
The campaign was reeling from a 2005 recording first reported by The Washington Post and NBC News in which Trump speaks in vulgar terms about women and his aggressive behavior toward them. Trump has since apologized and vowed to stay in the race. But a growing list of Republican officeholders is calling on him to quit the race.
The upheaval comes on the eve of the second debate between Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton — and less than five weeks before Election Day.
Trump rejected calls that he step aside, telling The Wall Street Journal there is “zero chance I’ll quit.
“I never, ever give up,” the newspaper quoted Trump as saying.
In The Wall Street Journal interview, Trump denied his campaign was in crisis, and predicted the controversy would blow over. “The support I’m getting is unbelievable, because Hillary Clinton is a horribly flawed candidate,” he said.
Trump addressed the dire situation on Saturday with a light-hearted tweet: “Certainly has been an interesting 24 hours!”
He later tweeted he would not yield the GOP nomination under any circumstances: “The media and establishment want me out of the race so badly – I WILL NEVER DROP OUT OF THE RACE, WILL NEVER LET MY SUPPORTERS DOWN!”
The media and establishment want me out of the race so badly – I WILL NEVER DROP OUT OF THE RACE, WILL NEVER LET MY SUPPORTERS DOWN! #MAGA
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 8, 2016
Republican reaction to the videotape came fast and furious, with some calling on him to step aside and others withdrawing their endorsement.
Even Trump’s running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, said that as a husband and father he was “offended” by Trump’s remarks.
“I do not condone his remarks and cannot defend them,” he said in a statement, adding that Sunday night’s debate was an opportunity for Trump “to show what is in his heart.”
Trump’s Republican critics want Pence, the vice presidential candidate, to replace the New York billionaire at the top of the ticket.
“Donald Trump should withdraw and Mike Pence should be our nominee effective immediately,” said Senator John Thune, a member of the Republican leadership.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, the top Republican officeholder, said he was “sickened” by what he had heard.
Trump was supposed to appear Saturday with Ryan at a campaign event in the congressman’s home state of Wisconsin, but the Republican nominee was disinvited. Pence was to go in his place, but he canceled.
While still publicly backing Trump, the Republican National Committee is considering how to move forward.
One possibility: re-directing its expansive political operation away from Trump and toward helping vulnerable Senate and House candidates. Such a move would leave Trump with virtually no political infrastructure in swing states to identify his supporters and ensure they vote.
The release of the videotape and ensuing backlash almost completely overshadowed the release of hacked emails from inside the Hillary Clinton campaign that revealed the contents of some of her previously secret paid speeches to Wall Street.
The Democratic nominee told bankers behind closed doors that she favored “open trade and open borders” and said Wall Street executives were best-positioned to help overhaul the U.S. financial sector. Such comments were distinctively at odds with her tough talk about trade and Wall Street during the primary campaign.