After a weekend where Indiana Gov. Mike Pence strongly rebuked running mate Donald Trump and refused to campaign for him — and after a debate where Trump undercut a Pence policy proposal on Syria — Pence made the cable news rounds Monday morning to praise Trump.
The appearances dispelled rumors that Pence was “holding his options open,” as the Indianapolis Star put it, after more than two dozen Republican officeholders urged Trump to withdraw from the presidential race.
“It’s absolutely false to suggest that at any point we considered dropping off this ticket,” Pence told CNN. “It’s the greatest honor of my life to be nominated by my party to be the next vice president of the United States of America.”
Pence told the network that he was “offended” and “couldn’t defend” the leaked 2005 video of Trump recounting groping women. “I think last night he showed his heart to the American people. He said he apologized to his family, apologized to the American people, that he was embarrassed by it, and then he moved on,” said Pence. “He said that’s not something that he’s done.”
“In the next 90 minutes the American people saw a dramatic choice between someone who is speaking boldly about the challenges facing this country, and someone who when they’re confronted with their own record … just obfuscated or ignored or refused to respond.”
NPR fact-checked the debate — you can read the full transcript here.
Pence, who also spoke to Fox News, went on to mirror Trump’s attacks on Bill Clinton’s sexual past — a line of attack many Republican strategists worry will backfire and turn off voters.
During the debate, moderator Martha Raddatz asked Trump about comments Pence made during last week’s vice presidential forum:
“RADDATZ: He said provocations by Russian need to be met with American strength and that if Russia continues to be involved with airstrikes along with the Syrian government forces of Assad, the United States of America should be prepared to use military force to strike the military targets, of the Assad regime.
“TRUMP: OK. He and I haven’t spoken, and I disagree.”
Many observers took Trump’s statement as dismissive of his potential vice president, but Pence said he didn’t view it that way.
“Frankly I’ve got a lot of respect for Martha Raddatz, but she just misrepresented the statement I made in my national debate. The question I got was about Aleppo, about humanitarian aid.” Here’s what Pence said last week, according to NPR’s fact-check transcript:
“But about Aleppo and about Syria — I truly do believe that what America ought to do right now is immediately establish safe zones so that the families with children can move out of those areas, work with our Arab partners, real time, right now, to make that happen. And secondly, I just have to tell you that the provocations by Russia need to be met with American strength. And if Russia chooses to be involved in continue — continue I should say to be involved — in this barbaric attack on civilians in Aleppo, the United States of America should be prepared to use military force to strike military targets of the Assad regime to prevent them from this humanitarian crisis that is taking place in Aleppo. There’s a broad range of other things that we ought to do as well. We ought to deploy a missile defense shield to the Czech Republic and Poland, which Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama pulled back on out of not wanting to offend the Russians back in 2009.”
Pence is scheduled to campaign in North Carolina on Monday. He’ll hold events in Iowa and Virginia on Tuesday.