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Indiana Governor Mike Pence denounced the sexually explicit remarks made more than a decade ago by his running mate, GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, but signaled a willingness to forgive the real estate mogul for the latest controversy buffeting their joint bid for the White House.
In a written statement issued nearly a day after the 2005 comments first surfaced, Pence on Saturday pointedly refused to defend Trump—a politically unprecedented move that highlighted how the real estate mogul's candidacy has splintered the Republican Party and broken traditional mores. Meanwhile, other prominent Republicans harshly condemned the new revelation.
Underscoring the seriousness of the situation, Trump's wife Melania also issued a statement that was both critical of his behavior yet supportive of his candidacy.
In a leaked audio, Trump was caught making crude comments about women, unleashing a firestorm of criticism and dominated the news cycle.
"As a husband and a father, I was offended by the words and actions described by Donald Trump in the eleven year old video released yesterday," Pence's statement read.
"I do not condone his remarks and I cannot defend them," Pence said. "I am grateful that he has expressed remorse and apologize to the American people," he added, referencing the late night video statement issued by the GOP contender.
Pence added that he would "pray for his family and look forward to the opportunity he has to show what's in his heart when he goes before the nation tomorrow night," the Indiana governor added.
At the time of the recording, Trump was newly married to Melania, a former fashion model.
"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," Melania Trump said in a statement of her own. "I hope people will accept his apology, as I have, and focus on the important issues facing our nation and the world."
According to a report by The Associated Press, Pence was "beside himself" and his wife was furious, according to a person familiar with their thinking. That person spoke on the condition of anonymity, because they were not authorized to share the private discussion, the AP reported.
As some GOP political elite wavered, some Trump supporters appeared willing to forgive and forget. Many of them bought up the peccadilloes of Bill Clinton, who was buffeted for years by his infidelity and accusations about his sexual behavior.
Still, top ranking Republican officials and party elders unloaded on their GOP presidential standard-bearer reacting with a mix of dismay and outrage to the audio leak. On Twitter, conservative radio personality Hugh Hewitt called on Trump to quit the Republican ticket, in order to spare himself and his supporters further embarrassment.
As the recording ricocheted across social media and news sites, current and former GOP elected officials were quick to condemn their presidential nominee's comments. Those remarks dovetailed with near universal outrage from his political opponents, including Democratic contender Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Ohio governor John Kasich, who is popular in his state and defeated Trump there in the GOP primaries, outright refused to vote for his party's nominee in the general election. Ohio, a perennial swing state, is key to Trump's presidential fortunes.
In a statement, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell denounced Trump's comments—caught on a hot mic in 2005—as "repugnant and unacceptable."
Former New Jersey Governor Christie Todd Whitman, a liberal Republican who served as EPA Admininstrator for former president George W. Bush, formally endorsed Hillary Clinton in an op-ed on Saturday.
--The Associated Press contributed to this article.