The two vice-presidential candidates took to the airwaves Sunday to defend their running mates against separate controversies, with Republican Mike Pence saying groping allegations against Donald Trump are “unsubstantiated” and Democrat Tim Kaine saying Russia has hacked Hillary Clinton campaign emails to meddle with the election results.
Pence said Trump has apologized for the lewd sexual remarks he made about women, as captured on a hot microphone in 2005.
“It’s important that we move beyond this issue,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Pence, the governor of Indiana, was asked about published accounts from nine women who say Trump made sexual advances without their consent.
“What we have this week is a series of unsubstantiated allegations,” Pence said. “He’s categorically denied those allegations.”
Trump, meanwhile, in a series of tweets on Sunday repeated his allegations that the election is being rigged “by the dishonest and distorted media.”
“Election is being rigged by the media, in a coordinated effort with the Clinton campaign, by putting stories that never happened into news!” he tweeted Sunday morning.
Trump also took aim at House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin), who has distanced himself from the rigging argument.
“Paul Ryan, a man who doesn’t know how to win (including failed run four years ago), must start focusing on the budget, military, vets etc.” Trump tweeted.
On ABC’s “This Week,” Kaine — the Virginia senator who shares the Democratic ticket with Clinton — pushed back on Trump’s argument that the electoral system is rigged.
He also blamed WikiLeaks’ steady stream of apparently hacked Clinton campaign emails on Russian government leaders acting in favor of Trump.
“Hillary and I stand up for the integrity of our election … against Russian efforts to meddle in the election,” Kaine said.
Asked about a Weekly Standard report that a State Department aide urged the FBI to reclassify emails stored on Clinton’s private server as secretary of state, Kaine said he knows that classifications can change for “very legitimate reasons.”
Pence and Kaine spoke ahead of the third and last presidential debate Wednesday between Trump and Clinton, and with just three weeks to go until Election Day.
Polls released Sunday showed the Democratic former secretary of state leading the Republican real estate mogul.
An ABC News/Washington Post poll found Clinton was up 4 points in a two-way race and an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll reported she had a 10-point lead.
Pence said he would accept the results of the election, saying the “sense of a rigged election” comes from “obvious bias in the national media.”
Other Trump surrogates on Sunday spoke more forcefully on the nominee’s claim that the free and fair election has been undermined in favor of Clinton.
“Dead people generally vote for Democrats, rather than Republicans,” former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, referencing past races where ballots have found to be cast on behalf of deceased voters.
Giuliani said WikiLeaks’ publication of emails apparently taken from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s Gmail account have shown what the mayor has called the corrupt inner workings of the Democrats’ operation.
“I find WikiLeaks very refreshing,” Giuliani said. “This is the Hillary Clinton that I always knew existed.”
Former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich, like Giuliani, said he believes the race is rigged with an “unending one-sided assault of the news media” on Trump.
But Gingrich also told “This Week” there are two versions of Trump, in his opinion. The “big Trump” is historic and challenging the establishment, while the “little Trump,” who attacks his sexual assault accusers, is “stupid.”
Vice President Joe Biden, a Clinton surrogate, focused his “Meet the Press” interview on the topic of sexual assault.
Asked why Trump shouldn’t be given the benefit of the doubt on his denial of his accusers’ accounts, Biden pointed to Trump’s talk about how he could grab women because he is a star.
“His own words,” the Democrat said. “I don’t have to even go to the accusers.”
Biden also was asked about similar accusations against former President Bill Clinton — accounts on which the Trump campaign has sought to shine a spotlight.
“I can’t make any excuse for Bill Clinton’s conduct, and I wouldn’t attempt to make any excuses for the conduct,” Biden said. “But he paid a price for it. He paid a price. He was impeached.”