As Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump sinks in the polls, Melania Trump has publicly defended him against allegations of sexual assault. She said his 2005 comments about groping women were just "boy talk."
In an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper, excerpts of which were aired on Monday evening, Melania Trump rejected the now at least nine sexual misconduct allegations against her husband Donald as "lies."
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has seen an already shaky campaign come almost completely off the rails in the week since a 2005 video was leaked in which he bragged of "grabbing women by the pussy."
His Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, has taken a strong lead in the race for the White House ahead of the November 8 election.
Interestingly, Melania also said she agreed with first lady Michelle Obama that kissing or groping someone without consent constituted sexual assault.
"But every assault should be taken care of in a court of law," she added. "And to accuse, no matter who it is, a man or a woman, without evidence is damaging and unfair."
Melania - who has kept a low profile during her husband's presidential bid - told CNN her husband had been "led on - like, egged on - from the host to say dirty and bad stuff" in the conversation on "Access Hollywood" in 2005.
'Boys will be boys'
In her first television interview since the release of the tape on October 7, the Slovenian-born former model said she was surprised because she had never heard her husband use that kind of language before.
"No. No, that's why I was surprised, because I said like I don't know that person that would talk that way, and that he would say that kind of stuff in private," Melania said, adding that her husband behaved at times like an overgrown boy and that she saw his "Access Hollywood" remarks as in keeping with that behavior.
"Sometimes I say I have two boys at home. I have my young son and I have my husband. But I know how some men talk, and that's how I saw it, yes," she said.
After Trump denied during a debate with Clinton on October 9 that he had actually done the things he bragged about in the tape, a number of women accused him of groping and kissing them without permission in incidents stretching back decades. He has denied the charges.
Asked about the accusations, Melania told Fox News in another interview: "All these women are coming out and they are allegations but they are not true. Why now? Why three weeks before the election?"
"I believe my husband," she told CNN. "This was all organized from the opposition. With the details that they got, did they ever check the background of these women? They don't have any facts."
Forgive and forget?
In partial transcripts from the Fox News interview, she said she had forgiven her husband for the comments in the tape, which was first published by the "Washington Post" newspaper.
"Those words, they were offensive to me and they were inappropriate. And he apologized to me. And I ... accept his apology. And we are moving on. And I hope the American people will accept it as well. And it was many, many years ago. He's not the man that I know," she said.
Asked if it was fair for the media or her husband to bring up charges of infidelity in former President Bill Clinton's past, Melania told Fox News: "Well, if they bring up my past, why not?"
Meanwhile, NBC said on Monday that former "Access Hollywood" host Billy Bush was leaving the "Today" show, following his role in the taped conversation with Trump. Bush, 45, was suspended from hosting duties on NBC's flagship morning show after the tape came to light.
"While he was a new member of the "Today" team, he was a valued colleague and longtime member of the broader NBC family. We wish him success as he goes forward," NBC said in a statement.
jbh/cmk (AP, dpa, Reuters)