WASHINGTON — The wife of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is defending her husband from condemnation generated by his bragging to a television host about forcing himself on women without their consent.
In an interview broadcast Monday night on CNN, Melania Trump alleged that her husband was “egged on” by the TV personality, then “Access Hollywood” anchorman Bill Bush, to say “dirty and bad stuff” on tape recorded in 2005. She added about her husband, “This is not the man that I know. He’s a gentleman. He’s kind. And I know he respects women.”
In the recording, Donald Trump brags in lewd terms about grabbing and kissing women and trying to seduce a married woman. He has apologized publicly for the comments, while referring to them simply as “locker room talk.”
Melania Trump told CNN her husband apologized to her for his remarks on the tape, and that she accepted his apology. She also accused the “left wing media” of making an issue of the tape to damage her husband’s reputation. She said she supports her husband’s claims that the November presidential election is being rigged in Hillary Clinton’s favor, arguing that the media is biased and dishonest.
For his part, Donald Trump on Monday ramped up his contention that the election is rigged against him.
“Of course there is large scale voter fraud happening on and before Election Day,” Trump said in one of a flurry of Twitter comments. “Why do Republican leaders deny what is going on? So naive!”
Trump continues to trail in the polls, three weeks ahead of the November 8 election. He has produced no evidence of voter fraud or other claims he has made, such as alleging that Hillary Clinton was on drugs during their last presidential debate, or that she got the debate questions ahead of time.
Still, a new survey by the political website Politico and the polling company Morning Consult shows many Americans are skeptical about the integrity of the national election, with 41 percent of voters believing that the election could be “stolen” from Trump. There was a wide partisan split in the poll results, with 73 percent of Republicans, but only 17 percent of Democrats, agreeing that there could be massive vote fraud.
In another Trump claim Monday, he said hacked emails from Clinton’s campaign chief John Podesta being released by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks “proves even the Clinton campaign knew” that she “mishandled classified info” on the private, unsecured email server she used while serving as U.S. secretary of state from 2009 to 2013.
“But no one gets charged? RIGGED!” he said.
U.S. investigators have concluded that Clinton’s handling of the national security material was “extremely careless,” but that criminal charges were not warranted.
The latest national polls Monday showed Clinton with a growing lead over Trump. Several polls released Monday show Clinton with leads of between 2 and 12 percentage points over Trump.