Republican vice-presidential nominee Mike Pence said Saturday that he was "offended" by graphic and lewd comments made in 2005 by Donald Trump that have rocked the celebrity businessman's White House bid.
"As a husband and father, I was offended by the words and actions described by Trump in the eleven-year-old video released yesterday. I do not condone his remarks and cannot defend them," Pence said in a statement.
It is a striking break with the top of the Republican ticket for the Indiana governor, who has been a strong surrogate and just days earlier, during the vice-presidential debate, defended other comments by his running mate.
Pence also raised eyebrows Saturday when he announced that he would not attend a fundraiser in Wisconsin hosted by House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., who disinvited Trump from the event on Friday after The Washington Post broke the story about the video containing the lewd statements. The campaign had announced that Pence would attend in Trump's place.
A campaign aide said that Pence himself made the decision not to go to Wisconsin on Saturday. The calculation, according to the aide, is that not attending will give Trump necessary space to navigate the fallout from his statements directly.
Pence, who said he was praying for the Trump family, in the statement said he was "grateful" Trump had delivered a statement apologizing to those who were offended by his words.
The video, in which Trump uses lewd language and suggests he has forced himself on women, has led to a cascade of defections within the party.
Many high-profile Republican leaders who have called for Trump to drop out of the race have suggested that Pence should take his place at the top of the ticket. Pence advisers have not responded to questions about whether the governor would leave the ticket or if he would be willing to step in if Trump drops out.
But Pence did heighten expectations on Trump during the second presidential debate, which will take place Sunday evening in St. Louis.
"I am grateful that he has expressed remorse and apologized to the American people," Pence said in the statement. "We pray for his family and look forward to the opportunity he has to show what is in his heart when he goes before the nation tomorrow night."