WASHINGTON — GOP vice presidential candidate Mike Pence withdrew from a campaign appearance in Wisconsin, preferring to let Donald Trump answer for himself during Sunday’s presidential debate about his sexually aggressive comments about women leaked in an 11-year-old video recording Friday.
“I do not condone his remarks and cannot defend them,” Pence said in a statement. “We pray for his family and look forward to the opportunity he has to show what is in his heart when he goes before the nation tomorrow night.”
He released the statement before leaving Indianapolis for a closed-door fundraiser in Rhode Island.
Pence was to replace Trump after House Speaker Paul Ryan called off Trump’s appearance following the publication Friday of a 2005 recording of Trump obtained by NBC News and the Washington Post.
“I’m automatically attracted to beautiful women — I just start kissing them, it’s like a magnet,” Trump said in the covertly recorded video. “Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ’em by the (expletive).”
Trump reportedly holed up Saturday in his Manhattan tower for debate prep as a parade of Republicans denounced his comments — and some called on him to step aside as presidential nominee.
Among those withdrawing support for Trump were former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sen. John McCain and Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah.
Trump’s wife, Melania, stood by him.
In a statement released Saturday afternoon, Melania Trump called Donald Trump’s crass comments about women that resurfaced on Friday to be “unacceptable and offensive” and said she hoped people will accept his apology like she has.
“The words my husband used are unacceptable and offensive to me,” reads the statement. “This does not represent the man that I know. He has the heart and mind of a leader. I hope people will accept his apology, as I have, and focus on the important issues facing our nation and the world.”
The response followed a statement and video apology from Donald Trump, who announced Saturday morning that, despite growing condemnation and calls for him to quit from his own party, the Republican presidential nominee will “never” withdraw from the race.
“I will never drop out of the race, will never let my supporters down,” he wrote on Twitter, in all caps, Saturday afternoon.