Story highlights

Donald Trump says he disagrees with top adviser who said, "You cannot rape your spouse"

"He's speaking for himself," Trump told CNN's Don Lemon

Washington CNN  — 

Donald Trump said Tuesday he’s bringing his authentic self to the GOP presidential debate stage next week, and disparaged other top presidential hopefuls for relying too much on pollsters instead of directly answering questions.

Trump has led in both recent polls in early states and nationwide, results that will earn him a spot in next week’s first Republican presidential debate in Ohio.

Asked by CNN’s Don Lemon aired Tuesday night if he was practicing or otherwise prepping for the upcoming event, Trump said, “I am what I am. I am what I am.”

He blasted both former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for what he said is an over reliance on the advice of pollsters to gauge the political winds, rather than speak their minds.

“I have a lot of money – much more money than all of them put together, and all of their phony contributions put together – but you have to understand, I want to be me,” Trump said. “You can’t rely on pollsters every time there’s a question.”

If he ends up doing poorly in the debates – and ultimately the presidential race – Trump said he’ll “ride into the sunset and do some more buildings and create some more jobs, and that’s OK.”

RELATED: Trump distances himself from top aide’s rape comment

But as it stands now, the businessman said he’s looking forward to the debate.

“I’m looking forward to it. I’m a gentleman, I want to be a gentleman. I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Trump said.

The businessman distanced himself on Tuesday from comments one of his top advisers made in an interview while defending the Republican presidential candidate from a decades-old rape accusation.

Trump said that he would not fire his top aide, Michael Cohen, after Cohen told the Daily Beast that legally “you cannot rape your spouse.”

“He’s speaking for himself. He’s not speaking for me, obviously, but I did tell him I disagreed with him,” Trump told Lemon, calling The Daily Beast a “joke” desperate to remain relevant.

“Michael was extremely angry because he knew (the alleged incident) never took place,” Trump said.

The rape claim stems from an accusation Trump’s then-wife Ivana Trump leveled at her husband during divorce proceedings in the early 1990s, an allegation she walked back Tuesday.

Cohen has since apologized for the remark, which he characterized as “inarticulate.”

Senior Republicans have fretted over how to deal with the rise of Trump, whose penchant for incendiary comments has won him admirers and loathers alike. And while Trump has floated the idea of running as a third-party candidate – which could imperil an eventual GOP nominee – he said Tuesday his preference was to win the Republican nomination. He had said he would reconsider a third-party bid if the Republican National Committee didn’t treat him with more respect.

“They are treating me very nicely,” Trump said Tuesday of the RNC leadership. “I think there has been a new level of respect since people have seen the polls.”

Trump also weighed in on one of the other top issues of the day: New England quarterback Tom Brady’s four-game suspension from the next NFL season.

“I’m for Tom Brady,” Trump said. “I know him really well. I think (the NFL has) treated him very rough.”