Mick Mulvaney, President Trump’s pick to be acting White House chief of staff, described Mr. Trump in 2016 as a “terrible human being” who had said “disgusting and indefensible” things about women on the infamous “Access Hollywood” recording.
Mr. Mulvaney, a former Republican congressman, made the comments in a debate with his Democratic challenger in South Carolina, and offered similar remarks in a post on his campaign Facebook page. The post was deleted shortly before he was chosen by Mr. Trump as the director of the Office of Management and Budget at the beginning of his term.
On Friday, Mr. Trump abruptly named Mr. Mulvaney as acting chief of staff a few hours after Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey, dropped out of the running. An administration official told reporters that Mr. Trump and Mr. Mulvaney, who have become golfing partners, get along.
But the surfacing of a video from the 2016 campaign debate, first reported by The Daily Beast, may present a complication.
“Do I like Donald Trump? No,” Mr. Mulvaney said in the video. He added that Mr. Trump was not a role model for his children, but that he was better than his opponent, Hillary Clinton.
“We have perhaps two of the most flawed human beings running for president in the history of the country,” Mr. Mulvaney said. “So I have to step back and look and say, ‘O.K., what do you all, the majority of the folks who vote for me, want me to do?’ In order to accomplish that, I have to support Donald Trump, and he has to win.”
He said he was supporting Mr. Trump “as enthusiastically as I can, given the fact that I think he’s a terrible human being. But the choice on the other side is just as bad.”
A spokeswoman for Mr. Mulvaney at the Office of Management and Budget said the remarks were “old news” and had been made before he had met Mr. Trump.
Mr. Mulvaney supported “then-candidate Trump throughout the election, and his support for President Trump has never wavered while serving within the administration,” the spokeswoman, Meghan Burris, said in a statement. “He both likes and respects the president, and he likes working for him. More importantly, Director Mulvaney believes in the president — because he is working every day to lift up millions of Americans and stands up for our great country.”
Mr. Mulvaney is not the only Trump appointee with a history of viewing him poorly. Nikki R. Haley, who recently announced her resignation as the United Nations ambassador, was critical of Mr. Trump during the primary campaign in 2016. And some appointees have disparaged the president while in the administration. Rex W. Tillerson, the former secretary of state, was reported to have called Mr. Trump a “moron.” The president returned the favor last week by calling Mr. Tillerson “dumb as a rock.”
In a Facebook post, from Oct. 11, 2016, Mr. Mulvaney said he had been canvassing his district in the days after The Washington Post first reported the “Access Hollywood” recording, in which Mr. Trump bragged about sexual assault.
“I think one thing we’ve learned about Donald Trump during this campaign is that he is not a very good person,” Mr. Mulvaney wrote. “What he said in the audiotape is disgusting and indefensible. My guess is that he has probably said even worse — and that the Clinton campaign has a lot more material to dump before this election is over.”
He went on: “I’ve decided that I don’t particularly like Donald Trump as a person. But I am still voting for him. And I am still asking other people to do the same. And there is one simple reason for that: Hillary Clinton.”
In criticizing Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Mulvaney said that she was “just as ‘deplorable’ as she makes Trump out to be.”
“She has peddled influence to make herself rich,” he said, explaining his thinking. “That sort of behavior alone used to disqualify people from office — much more so than vulgar language and vile attitudes toward women. But she has gone beyond that: She’s lied to Congress and to the American public. She has broken the law.”
While in Congress, Mr. Mulvaney was one of the most conservative and outspoken members of the House Republican caucus. His Facebook page included periodic online town halls with constituents on a range of topics.
In one series of posts, Mr. Mulvaney questioned the need for funding research into the Zika virus, a growing crisis at the time that left newborns with severe brain malformations.
“No one has written me yet, though, to ask what might be the best question: Do we really need government-funded research at all?” he asked.