Pence at Liberty University calls on Christians to forgive Trump

(USA TODAY) -- Mike Pence had a message Wednesday for evangelical Christians: They should forgive Donald Trump.

The Indiana governor's plea on behalf of his running came in the wake of the Friday release of a 2005 recording in which Trump is heard, in graphic terms, discussing women and his attempts to grope them.

"As Christians we are called to forgive, even as we've been forgiven," Pence said during a speech at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., as he proceeded to praise Trump's handling of the matter at the recent debate in St. Louis against Hillary Clinton.

"Last Sunday night, my running mate showed humility," Pence said at the evangelical college. "He showed what was in his heart to the American people."

At the debate, Trump said he was "not proud" of the controversial comments. "I apologize to my family, I apologized to the American people," the GOP nominee said. However, while explaining that he was "embarrassed" by the episode, he also dismissed the remarks, as he's done in the days since, as "locker room talk" — a characterization that's drawn criticism from many as minimizing what was described on the tape.

On Saturday, the day after the recording was made public, Pence issued a statement on the Trump tape saying that he could "not condone his remarks and cannot defend them." The Indiana governor had been slated to fill in for Trump at a weekend event in Wisconsin with House Speaker Paul Ryan, after the speaker disinvited Trump, but decided not to go.

As the controversy grew, many Republican officeholders withdrew their support of Trump, with some calling on him to end his White House bid and allow Pence to take his spot.

However, after the debate The Indianapolis Star cited a Pence campaign source who said that the Indiana governor was "100%" sticking with Trump on the GOP ticket (this, apparently, despite one exchange during the debate when Trump openly disagreed with his running mate on Syria).

During Wednesday's speech, Pence praised Trump, saying the GOP presidential nominee is someone who "never quits" and "literally embodies the spirit of America."

Pence also recounted when Trump made the call to offer him a spot on the GOP ticket.

"Mike, it's gonna be great," he recalled Trump telling him.

"And it has been," Pence added.


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