Mike Pence: “I am proud to stand with Donald Trump”

Donald Trump, Mike Pence

Donald Trump, Mike Pence

Mike Pence gave a full-throated endorsement of his embattled running mate Monday afternoon, the first time he has publicly addressed Donald Trump’s crude remarks caught on tape in 2005 since they were released three days ago.

“You saw that on the stage last night. You know, it takes a big man to know when he is wrong and to admit it and to have the humility to apologize and be transparent and be vulnerable with people and Donald Trump last night showed that he is a big man,” Pence told a few hundred supporters during the mid-day campaign stop.

The Indiana governor cut right to the chase at the top of his speech, broaching the debate and Trump’s apology simultaneously. Pence said his running mate “literally embodies the spirit of America” and rolled out a string of positive descriptors like “strong, freedom loving and independent.”

The vice presidential candidate often talks about his Christian faith on the campaign trail, and Pence relied on his religious roots again today, explaining that he believes in forgiveness.

“You know, as I said last weekend, I don’t condone what was said and I spoke out against it. But the other part of my faith is I believe in grace. I’ve received it. I believe in it. I believe in forgiveness, and we are called to forgive as we have been forgiven,” Pence said.

The crowd applauded and seemed receptive to this message. Pence continued to praise Trump’s performance last night.

“Last night my running mate, he showed the American people what was in his heart and he showed humility to the American people, and then he fought back and turned the focus to the choice that we face, and I am proud to stand with Donald Trump.”

At the same time that Pence was onstage touting his running mate, Trump tweeted out a critical statement of House Speaker Paul Ryan, who has all but unendorsed the Republican presidential candidate. At an ice cream stop after the town hall, Pence did not answer reporters’ questions about whether he had spoken with the speaker or for his reaction.

Pence also hit back on the Hillary Clinton’s latest hacked emails, quoting her comments to Wall Street investors in which she talks about having a “public and private position” in order to be politically successful. Someone in the crowd yelled, “She’s two-faced!”

Pence went on to say of Sunday night, “When she was asked about that on television, and give the moderators some credit — she was asked about it last night, we got a lecture about Abraham Lincoln. Did you see that? Well, as a member of the party of Lincoln, I would prefer if dishonest Hillary did not associate herself with honest Abe,” he told the crowd.