Melania Trump, who has been all but invisible as her husband confronts a campaign crisis over allegations that he sexually assaulted women, emerged Monday to forcefully defend him and question the honesty of the women making the accusations.
Trump, in an extensive interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper, said the women who had accused Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump of groping and kissing them were lying, and likened her husband to a teenage boy who engages in macho boasting.
She echoed her husband's complaint that he was the victim of a broad conspiracy between the news media and the Clinton campaign.
"I believe my husband, I believe my husband — it was all organized from the opposition," Melania Trump said. "They can never check the background of these women. They don't have any facts."
Her appearance comes as Donald Trump and his aides grapple with the worst stretch of the campaign, after the airing 10 days ago of an Access Hollywood recording from 2005 that captured Donald Trump bragging to the host Billy Bush that he kisses women without invitation and that he can grab women's genitals because he is a "star."
Melania Trump, 46, called the exchange between Donald Trump and Bush "boy talk," and said Donald Trump had been "egged on" by the host "to say dirty and bad stuff."
But she stressed that she believed that Donald Trump was simply being boastful and did not engage in the behavior he described.
"Sometimes I say I have two boys at home: I have my young son, and I have my husband," she said with a slight laugh. "But I know how some men talk, and that's how I saw it, yes."
Donald Trump's aides have been eager for his wife to make a public show of support for him, especially after the Access Hollywood recording dominated several media cycles and drove some Republican elected officials to abandon his candidacy.
A week ago, Donald Trump's adult children, along with aides to his campaign, urged Melania Trump to agree to a sit-down interview with her husband, an echo of the 60 Minutes interview that Bill and Hillary Clinton did in 1992 after sexual infidelity allegations arose against Bill Clinton. That appearance helped stabilize Bill Clinton's presidential campaign.
But Melania Trump had little interest in it, and the idea died.
Melania Trump has never enjoyed the political stage, and was stung by media coverage in July, when it was revealed that her anticipated Republican National Convention speech borrowed lines from first lady Michelle Obama's 2008 address to the Democratic National Convention. She has been absent from the campaign trail since, save for brief appearances at the first two general election debates, and has been spending time with the couple's young son, Barron.
She put out a written statement of support for her husband after the tape surfaced. But with Donald Trump's favorability among women perilously low, his advisers wanted Melania Trump to do more.
Seated in the family's penthouse atop Trump Tower, Melania Trump seemed occasionally ill at ease but determined to convey several points: that her husband is a gentleman, that the media is out to get him and that she is staying strong despite the ugliness. She showed an ability to remain on message that her husband sometimes lacks.
"I watched TV hour after hour bashing him," Melania Trump said of the television coverage the weekend the 11-year-old recording was first revealed.
She said her husband was defending himself against the accusations because "they're lies."
She also said her husband was approached by many women who were sexually forward with him.
"I see many, many women coming to him and giving the phone numbers and, you know, want to work for him or inappropriate stuff from women," she said. "And they know he's married."
Melania Trump steadily answered most of Cooper's polite but probing questions, though she suggested that some information she would keep private, including the details of the conversation the couple had after the tape came out.
She also taped an interview for Fox and Friends that will appear Tuesday morning.
Donald Trump has vehemently denied the claims of his accusers, calling them elements of a conspiracy led partly by news media outlets, particularly CNN and the New York Times. Yet despite Donald Trump's criticism of CNN and its reporting, and even as some of his supporters at a rally Monday used an anti-CNN chant, Melania Trump still selected Cooper to interview her.
Asked on Fox whether it was fair for her husband to bring up Bill Clinton's past, Melania Trump said, "Well, if they bring up my past, why not?" She was alluding to a television ad run during the Republican Party's nominating fight that featured a nude photo spread from Melania Trump's days as a model.
Speaking to Cooper, Melania Trump repeatedly denounced what she saw as the meanness and inaccuracy of media accounts about her, and she said she would like to work to protect children from the toxic dangers of negativity and anger on social media.
She has withdrawn from her own social media accounts, Melania Trump said, rarely posting during the campaign. "I see the negativity, and it's not healthy," she said.
But when asked whether she has advised the same to her husband, a frequent Twitter user who often attacks others on his feed, she replied, "That's his decision. He's an adult."
"I give him many advices, but sometimes he listens, sometimes he doesn't, and he will do what he wants to do at the end, and I will do what I want to do," she said.