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Melania Trump Defends Husband Donald Trump With CNN’s Anderson Cooper Amid Tape Scandal: Everything She Said

Melania Trump has a lot to say about Donald Trump‘s recent controversies! Melania spoke to CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 on Monday, October 17, offering her first sit-down interview about her husband’s recent scandals following the release of the leaked 2005 recording of him bragging to Billy Bush about groping women.

Read on for the minute-by-minute account of what she told Anderson Cooper, including whether she’s surprised by the recent allegations of sexual misconduct against her husband. And start at the bottom of the post to get it chronological order. 

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8:43 p.m. ET: In the final segment of Melania Trump’s interview, Anderson Cooper pressed her one last time on an uncomfortable subject: Keeping in mind that 60 percent of Americans believe Donald Trump is likely guilty of inappropriate sexual conduct, what does she want people to know about her husband? Melania’s answer: That he’s good, kind and a gentleman — and that he’s been the victim of a conspiracy organized by the media and the Clintons. Does Melania think the press and Hillary Clinton’s family are working together to smear Trump?

“Yes. Of course,” she said.

From there, there’s only one subject left to discuss: What does Melania see her focus being, if her husband is elected and she becomes First Lady?

Her answer was interesting (and maybe a little bit ironic, under the circumstances): She wants to focus on children, and particularly on educating them about the risks of life in the digital age.

“We need to teach them about social media because I see a lot of negativity on it,” she said.

Melania herself is no longer on social media — she described herself as “not an attention-seeker.” And when pressed on whether she’s spoken at all about this with the somewhat notoriously attention-seeking man she’s married to, she said that she gives him advice, which he sometimes takes and sometimes doesn’t. In an election cycle where the bad acts of Hillary Clinton’s spouse have somehow become an issue, Melania’s final statement was both incisive and awfully apt: that she and Donald Trump are their own people, and each responsible for their own individual actions and choices. 

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8:34 p.m. ET: “I teach him, he needs to be careful of the language he uses,” said Melania — but she wasn’t talking about Donald Trump. That was a response to a question from Anderson Cooper about whether her son is aware of what’s going on in Dad’s campaign lately, and it was a bit of a dodge; what’s clear is that Melania is a committed parent, one who cited her commitment to her child as the reason why she’s been largely absent on the campaign trail. And has her marriage been negatively affected by this rocky moment in Trump’s campaign?

In a word, nope.

“We always have a great marriage and strong relationship, and he said many times that I’m a rock for [our] whole family,” she said of Trump. She described herself and her husband as “two independent people,” and independent thinkers, which makes for a strong and healthy marriage. Credit to Melania: Not only did she give an articulate answer to an uncomfortable question, but managed to pivot directly from there to a bunch of Trump presidential-campaign talking points.

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8:26 p.m. ET: “I didn’t expect media would be so dishonest and so mean,” said Melania. She said the stories about her have been universally dishonest; she also called out the New York Post for running somewhat racy photos of her from her days as a model — not because they posted the photos, but because they got their dates wrong. She also said that the biggest surprise from the media coverage has been the girl-on-girl meanness, i.e. the stories she’s found most offensive have been written by female reporters. 

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8:22 p.m. ET: Just before the first commercial break, Melania fielded her first question about the allegations that have surfaced about Trump’s non-consensual kissing and groping of women in the wake of that leaked tape — including the incident recounted by People writer Natasha Stoynoff, who wrote that Trump cornered her in a room and tried to kiss her while she was interviewing him at his Florida home. That story included an anecdote in which Stoynoff said she encountered and spoke with Melania Trump on Fifth Avenue — and to Mrs. Trump, the credibility of the piece hinges on it.

“I was never friends with her,” Melania said of Stoynoff. “I would not recognize her.”

“That never happened?” Cooper pressed.

“That never happened,” Melania replied.

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8:17 p.m. ET: Melania’s approach to explaining the taped comments is a lot like her husband’s.

“My husband is real. He’s raw. He tells it as it is,” she said before going on to refer to Trump as “a gentleman.” She repeated several talking points — ones that will be familiar to anyone who’s watched Donald on the campaign trail — about his immense respect for women, and so on. Then it’s back to acknowledging Trump’s occasional propensity for what she calls “boys’ talk” — joking that she has two teenage boys at home, her son and her husband.

Anderson Cooper pressed Melania on Michelle Obama’s comments, in which she called out Trump’s comments as describing sexual assault. Melania’s response:

“No, that’s not a sexual assault. He didn’t say he did it,” she said. She also said that contrary to popular opinion, it is women who behaved inappropriately around Donald Trump, not the other way around — for instance, approaching him at campaign events and offering phone numbers.

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8:13 p.m. ET: Questioned directly about remarks Donald Trump made while behind the scenes on Access Hollywood, Melania lays at least part of the blame on Billy Bush, who she says “egged [Trump] on” to “say dirty and bad stuff.”

“I don’t know that person who would talk that way,” she said.

Melania also questioned the timing of this October surprise, as well as the release of bits and pieces of Donald Trump’s tax returns by The New York Times, which she chalks up to an intentional attempt to influence voters.

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8:09 p.m. ET: Melania Trump was looking poised and lovely in a white dress opposite Anderson Cooper, and despite the week she’s had, she said she’s doing just fine: “I’m great! I’m very strong, I’m very confident, and I live my life. I take care of myself, and our son, and my husband. I’m doing great.”

She also said she’s not surprised that she’s sitting here talking about her husband’s alleged misconduct tonight, which she chalks up to a conspiracy.

“I’m not surprised because a lot of people, they are against my husband,” she said. “Nothing surprises me.”

She also said that the press is unfair in their coverage, lying about her as well as her husband. She pointed to lawsuits she’s filed against various outlets for printing what she calls “lies” about her behavior.

8 p.m. ET: It’s been a bad couple weeks for Donald Trump — but for his wife, Melania Trump, it’s been arguably worse. In the wake of a now-infamous tape recorded in 2005 that caught Donald describing in graphic detail how he likes to kiss and grope women without their consent, Melania is speaking out in an Anderson Cooper 360 sit-down on CNN Monday, October 17.

The rare interview with her airs just over one week after Anderson Cooper confronted Donald on the stage on October 9 at the second presidential debate with some tough questions about his recorded comments — and in the wake of multiple women coming forward to accuse the real estate mogul of kissing or groping them without consent. Melania has been married to Donald for 11 years and was pregnant with their son, Barron, at the time of the candidate’s inappropriate 2005 comments to Billy Bush on an Access Hollywood bus.

Melania Trump and Anderson Cooper
Melania Trump with Anderson Cooper

Unlike her husband, Melania doesn’t seem to particularly enjoy the spotlight, political or otherwise; she’s been a rare and mostly silent presence on the Trump campaign trail, particularly after her speech at the Republican National Convention was discovered to have been plagiarized verbatim in some parts from a speech by Michelle Obama.

Will Melania condemn her husband’s alleged behavior, or will she double down and stand by her man? All signs point to the latter, as she claimed in a preview clip from the interview that Trump was “egged on” by Bush.

Related: PHOTOS: Donald Trump's Former Flames

Follow along with Us Weekly‘s live blog for minute by minute updates of the CNN interview, starting at 8 p.m. ET.

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