Committing his second about-face on supporting Republican nominee Donald Trump, Sen. Lindsey Graham withdrew his support and urged other Republicans to take back their endorsements.
Graham, who was virulently against the prospect of the businessman becoming his party's nominee, finally came around to endorsing Trump in late May. But the South Carolina Republican told the New York Times he changed his mind again after hearing Trump's remarks about Judge Gonzalo Curiel.
Curiel is a federal court judge overseeing a lawsuit against Trump University, a real estate education program endorsed by the businessman. While the Trump campaign has trotted out former students who say they're happy with the education they received from Trump University, the lawsuit's plaintiffs allege the non-accredited school was a scam.
Trump has said repeatedly that Curiel is incapable of being impartial as a judge in the case, citing his background -- Curiel's parents are Mexican immigrants -- and his political activity, which includes membership in groups that have condemned Trump.
"It's an inherent conflict of interest," Trump told The Wall Street Journal on June 3.
Graham says he takes issue with the idea that a judge cannot be impartial because of his heritage, and said Trump's comments will hurt Republicans seeking re-election in tight senate races.
“This is the most un-American thing from a politician since Joe McCarthy,” Graham told The New York Times, referring to the senator who fueled fears of Communism during the Cold War.
Graham suggested his Republican colleagues should withdraw their support for the candidate now, before he makes more controversial statements.
“If anybody was looking for an off-ramp, this is probably it,” Graham said. “There’ll come a time when the love of country will trump hatred of Hillary.”
Meanwhile, House Speaker Rep. Paul Ryan condemned Trump's comments on Curiel, but said he still supports the businessman-turned-politician.
"Claiming a person can't do their job because of their race is sort of like the textbook definition of a racist comment," Ryan said, reports Politico. "If you say something that's wrong, I think the mature and responsible thing is to acknowledge it."
Writing in The Washington Post, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Trump has a right to question the impartiality of the judiciary, and pointed to Curiel's associations. Among them: The law firm Curiel appointed to represent plaintiffs in the Trump University case has ties to the Clinton family, and has paid $675,000 in speaking fees to Hillary Clinton, Trump's likely general election rival.
"These circumstances, while not necessarily conclusive, at least raise a legitimate question to be considered," Gonzales wrote. "Regardless of the way Trump has gone about raising his concerns over whether he’s getting a fair trial, none of us should dismiss those concerns out of hand without carefully examining how a defendant in his position might perceive them — and we certainly should not dismiss them for partisan political reasons."