CNN reported Friday evening that Pence was considering dropping out of the race after the release of an explosive video in which Trump bragged about grabbing women by the genitals without permission. Senior GOP officials, the network said, were urging Pence to jump ship in order to pressure Trump himself out of the race.
“That was absolutely false,” Pence told Fox News of reports he might bail on the ticket. “These rumors just swirl around presidential campaigns.”
Pence said that he had encouraged Trump to “express what I believe is his sincere personal remorse” over his revolting remarks during a conversation with then-“Access Hollywood” host Billy Bush in 2005. Pence said that Trump “show[ed] his heart” in Sunday night’s debate by acknowledging how embarrassed he was by the revelations. Trump, he insisted, showed “vulnerability and transparency” when asked to address the video at the very start of the debate.
“The real story this morning is that Donald Trump stepped up and won a debate last night,” Pence said. “He showed humility, he showed strength, he expressed genuine contrition for the words that he used in the video.”
In reality, though, Trump’s humility was limited. Faced with tough questions on his hot-mic remarks, Trump used it as an opportunity to attack his opponent and her spouse. “If you look at Bill Clinton, far worse,” Trump said during the debate at one point. “Mine are words. His are action.”
Speaking Monday morning, Pence said he believed his running mate when Trump said it was only talk, and that he never actually committed sexual assault.
“He said last night very clearly that that was talk, not actions, and I believe him,” he said on CNN’s “New Day.”
Pence, who once denounced negative campaigning, repeated the Trump campaign’s talking points on Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton. The Trump campaign brought three women who have accused Bill Clinton of either assault or harassment to the debate.
CNN host Alisyn Camerota noted that there are allegations of sexual abuse and harassment against Trump as well, and that he spoke on the videotape about things he had done. Pence brushed off those questions, saying Trump’s comments on the video “were words, not deeds.”
Pence also insisted there was no daylight between him and Trump on Syria policy, in spite of clear contrasts between the two. Pence said last week that the U.S. should establish a no-fly zone there, and that if Russia continues “to be involved in this barbaric attack on citizens in Aleppo, the United States of America should be prepared to use military force to strike military targets” of the Syrian government.
Trump said during the debate that he and Pence “haven’t spoken” on the subject, and that he disagrees.
Pence said his own words were taken out of context in the question at Sunday’s debate ― even after CNN played a clip ― and that he was talking about establishing safe zones.
“It’s about being willing to use military force to prevent a further humanitarian crisis, to establish safe zones and allow people to escape the horrors of further barbaric action in Aleppo,” he said.
Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.