Melania Trump condemned her husband's comments Saturday, joining ranking Republican party officials in denouncing crude comments about women made by Donald Trump over a decade ago, with a handful withdrawing their endorsement of the presidential candidate or calling for him to step aside as the GOP nominee.
In a statement published on the GOP presidential nominee's website, Melania Trump said: "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. I hope people will accept his apology, as I have, and focus on the important issues facing our nation and the world."
Trump's running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, was "beside himself" and his wife was furious, according to a person close to the couple, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to share the private discussion, the Associated Press reported.
After refusing to respond to questions from reporters Friday night, Pence released a statement Saturday saying he was "offended by the words and actions described by Donald Trump" and "cannot defend them." But, he added, "I am grateful that he has expressed remorse and apologized to the American people."
It is the first time Pence has publicly condemned controversial statements made by Trump. During the vice presidential debate Tuesday, the governor repeatedly dodged challenges to defend some of Trump's most inflammatory comments about women and immigrants when pressed by Hillary Clinton's runningmate, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine.
House Speaker Paul Ryan said he was "sickened" by Trump's remarks and angrily revoked an invitation for the real estate mogul to appear at a GOP event Saturday in Wisconsin. Pence canceled a scheduled appearance at the same event amid fallout from Friday's video.
"I hope Mr. Trump treats this situation with the seriousness it deserves and works to demonstrate to the country that he has greater respect for women than this clip suggests," Ryan said.
Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus has been a champion of the billionaire businessman's campaign since Trump won the party's nomination, but he was among the first Republicans to criticize the latest revelations from Trump's comments about women in a curt response.
"No woman should ever be described in these terms or talked about in this manner. Ever."
Newly released audio from 2005 revealed Trump bragging about trying to have sex with a married woman and made a series of profane, sexually charged comments about women. The recording was published Friday by The Washington Post and NBC News.
Sen. John McCain, who offered grudging support for the Republican candidate, withdrew his support for Trump Saturday, saying "Cindy and I will not vote for Donald Trump."
"Donald Trump’s behavior this week, concluding with the disclosure of his demeaning comments about women and his boasts about sexual assaults, make it impossible to continue to offer even conditional support for his candidacy, McCain said in a statement. "Cindy, with her strong background in human rights and respect for women fully agrees with me in this."
Two Utah Republicans, Gov. Gary Herbert and Rep. Jason Chaffetz, also withdrew their endorsements Friday, while former Gov. Jon Huntsman called for the candidate to step aside and let Pence take his place.
Chaffetz, who is chairman of the House oversight committee, told a Utah television station he can “no longer in good conscience endorse this person for president.” He called Trump’s comments “some of the most abhorrent and offensive comments that you can possibly imagine.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell weighed in after more than five hours, calling the comments repugnant and unacceptable.
"As the father of three daughters, I strongly believe that Trump needs to apologize directly to women and girls everywhere, and take full responsibility for the utter lack of respect for women shown in his comments on that tape," McConnell said.
Rep. Mike Coffman, a Republican congressman in Colorado, also called on the candidate to step aside “for the good of the country and to give the Republicans a chance of defeating Hillary Clinton.” Coffman had previously refused to endorse Trump.
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham wrote in tweet that he was "never comfortable with Donald Trump as our party nominee" and conservative Alabama congresswoman Martha Roby admitted to previously tolerating Trump's "antics" because she wanted to support the party's nominee. Now, she says Trump should "step aside and allow a responsible, respectable Republican to lead the ticket."
I have never been comfortable with Donald Trump as our Republican nominee.
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) October 8, 2016
The highest-ranking female Republican in the House, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, released a statement declaring that "it is never appropriate to condone unwanted sexual advances or violence against women. Mr. Trump must realize that it has no place in public or private conversations today or in the past."
Ryan's spokesman and several others who criticized Trump's comments sidestepped the question of whether he should stay in the race.
Former Secretary of State and George W. Bush advisor Condoleezza Rice took to Facebook to announce that she would not support Trump, either.
"Enough!" she posted. "Donald Trump should not be President. He should withdraw. As a Republican, I hope to support someone who has the dignity and stature to run for the highest office in the greatest democracy on earth."
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a former GOP primary opponent who has not endorsed Trump, called Trump's comments "wrong and offensive."
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk, who have never been Trump fans, also took to Twitter to denounce him.
But Trump's Virginia campaign chairman, Corey A. Stewart told The Washington Post that women voters wouldn't be moved by Trump's comments.
“When people voted for Donald Trump, they knew he wasn’t an angel,” said Stewart, a 2017 contender for Virginia governor and chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors. “They are not concerned that, at times, Donald Trump acts like a frat boy. Sometimes he does, but that’s okay.”
Trump held his ground in a video statement released early Saturday that made it clear he was staying in the race. “Anyone who knows me, knows these words don’t reflect who I am,” he said, before apologizing and claiming he has “changed.”
“See you at the debate on Sunday,” he said.
NBC's Danielle Abreu contributed to this report.
Photo Credit: Getty Images
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