Ernst, a Republican seeking a second term, said she "would respond very differently" than Trump, but "he leads is a very different way" when asked about the president's recent tweets about unfounded conspiracy theories about MSNBC "Morning Joe" co-host Joe Scarborough and controversial retweets he made attacking prominent female politicians, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, over their appearances.
"I'd love to rub a little Iowa nice off, but certainly it gets media attention, and negative or positive, it's obviously getting media attention," she told ABC News' "Powerhouse Politics" podcast. "Certainly when he's speaking out, he's drawing attention to certain situations, and if he were really Iowa nice in those situations, (he) probably wouldn't get the the media attention that he does."
Discussing her new memoir, "Daughter of the Heartland: My Ode to the Country that Raised Me," Ernst told podcast co-hosts ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl and Political Director Rick Klein that she has "a different take on politics."
"I can certainly be Iowa nice, but I can be strong. I have never been a hater. I don't want to waste my time on hatred," she said. "I don't like the fact that we demonize so many people. And I think that's truly unfair because everybody deserves a chance to explain their positions and their policies."
In her revealing memoir, published Tuesday, Ernst also recounts her experience as a survivor of both rape and domestic abuse, and the painful divorce that publicly "outed" her as a survivor. She told "Powerhouse Politics" that the president called her when her abuse was revealed to express sympathy, showing his "very, very tender, compassionate side."
About 15 years ago, Ernst's now ex-husband threw her down the stairs, and "put both of his hands on (her) neck and started pounding (her) head onto the floor," she writes in the book, saying she thought he was going to kill her in that moment. The incident became public because her ex-husband didn't seal the divorce records, she said.
"This was probably one of the hardest things... going through an experience like this and being outed really because I didn't want anyone to know," Ernst told ABC News, choking up as she did. "(It's) not so different than what so many other women have gone through, whether they are survivors of sexual assault or domestic abuse -- there is a shame associated with that."
She said that one thing that drove her to publish her truth, was the support she received from women around the country who had also suffered from similar abuse.
"They would write me and say, 'Joni, you were a battalion commander. You were a lieutenant colonel. You're a United States senator. You went through all of that. And yet you moved on and did something great with your life,' and I thought it was important to be able to share that," she told Klein and Karl. "I'm not a victim. I'm a survivor. And I want women to understand that -- and men... you can go through horrific challenges in your lifetime, but don't let that define you."
Karl mentioned that while covering her as a senator on Capitol Hill, he never knew she was going through such a difficult time in her personal life. Ernst noted a fact that people may sometimes forget: elected officials are people, too.
"While we may put smiles on and we show up for work and, you know, we will do our jobs -- and I do my job with a joyful heart -- but understanding that, yes, it was very tense, and especially in the last several years of -- of marriage. There was a point where I absolutely could do nothing," she said.
She continued, "It was just the realization that I am sitting in the Capitol of the United States taking votes for the people of Iowa and such great responsibility, and yet, I was boiled down to nothing (by my ex-husband), but 'I need you here, you're not here to cook me supper... It was just demoralizing to me that we couldn't celebrate success."
Ernst she she always wants to be a good example for her college-aged daughter, Libby, who she called "the light of my life," and this experience was no exception.
"What I want her to know is that I am a mom, and these are the things that moms can do. These are the things that women can do. A mom can work. A mom can take risk. A mom can serve in uniform. A mother can be a leader. And she can challenge those boys clubs," she told the co-hosts. "There aren't any barriers to their success out there as long as they have the wherewithal and the courage. You can push through."