With Donald Trump’s presidential aspirations seemingly at risk, his wife, Melania, broke her silence Saturday about a leaked video that showed her husband making lewd remarks about women. She called his comments “unacceptable and offensive.”
But in a written statement issued by his campaign, Melania Trump also defended her husband, saying the vulgar remarks were not reflective of him and that she had accepted his apology and hoped others would, too.
“The words my husband used are unacceptable and offensive to me. This does not represent the man that I know. He has the heart and mind of a leader,” she said. “I hope people will accept his apology, as I have, and focus on the important issues facing our nation and the world.”
Her comments came roughly 24 hours after a video emerged of the celebrity businessman bragging in explicit terms about kissing, groping and trying to have sex with women. The conversation, leaked to the Washington Post, was captured on an open microphone during a 2005 interview with “Access Hollywood,” and it included the future Republican presidential nominee boasting about his attempt to seduce a married woman and bragging that he could get away with “anything” with women because of his celebrity status.
“When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything,” Trump said in the recording.
The shocking comments were made just months after he had married Melania, his third wife, whom he had been dating since 1998. At the time, she was pregnant with their son, Barron, who is now 11.
After first dismissing the comments as nothing more than “locker-room banter,” the GOP nominee offered a feeble apology for the statements, implying in a 90-second video released early Saturday that he had grown as a person through his unlikely bid for the White House.
“Anyone who knows me knows these words don’t reflect who I am,” Trump declared. “I said it, I was wrong, and I apologize.”
But many took note that he did not directly apologize to his wife, who has been a reluctant figure in his insurgent White House bid. Though she joined her husband at his first debate with Hillary Clinton last month, she has not publicly appeared with him since the Republican National Convention and has not formally campaigned with him since April.
Melania Trump was the first member of the candidate’s family to publicly react to the video, which has spurred calls from many Republicans for Donald Trump to exit the presidential race for the good of the party.
The candidate’s three eldest adult children — Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric — have so far been silent on their father’s controversial statements. While Melania Trump has stayed out of the public eye, Trump’s adult kids have served not only as close advisers but also as their father’s most important public surrogates.
Taking on a role that would normally be filled by the candidate’s wife, Ivanka Trump has been deployed to help boost her father’s standing with women and younger voters. At the same time, she has defended unsavory allegations against her dad, including one instance in May when she rejected allegations made by several women that he had sexually harassed them.
“I’m not in every interaction my father has. But he’s not a groper,” Ivanka Trump told CBS News at the time.
Multiple campaign sources say the candidate has been consulting with his family as he navigates a way forward through a controversy that threatens to undermine his presidential bid just one month before Election Day. The kids were already said to be unhappy about the trajectory of their father’s campaign and its impact on the family business.
Before Friday’s video release, the campaign had strongly denied rumors of family discord. But the first clue of whether the clan remains united behind Trump’s campaign could come Sunday, as the candidate travels to St. Louis for his second debate with Clinton.
As had been the case at the first debate, Trump’s wife and kids had been expected to join him. The campaign did not respond to emails asking if that was still the case.