The House Speaker, Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, has condemned Republican nominee Donald Trump’s comments on U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel as demonstrably racist (video below).
Trump ignited a firestorm after implying that Judge Curiel, who is presiding over one of several fraud lawsuits against the business mogul’s now-defunct Trump University, was a Mexican national. Curiel was born in Indiana but has Hispanic heritage.
Instead of backing away from his comments, the GOP nominee doubled down, telling CNN’s Jake Tapper that the judge had a conflict of interest because of his ethnicity.
"He’s proud of his heritage," Trump told Tapper on June 3. The business mogul said Curiel should recuse himself from the court case because "he’s a Mexican. We’re building a wall between here and Mexico."
The business mogul’s comments have been widely ridiculed as racist. Ryan, who has endorsed Trump after holding out for several weeks, has weighed in on the issue and agreed that Trump crossed the line.
On June 7, during a press conference discussing the House Republicans’ policy agenda, Ryan was asked about the business mogul’s verbal attacks against the judge.
“I regret those comments that he made,” Ryan said, according to Reuters. “Claiming a person can’t do their job because of their race is sort of like the textbook definition of a racist comment. I think that should be absolutely disavowed.”
The House Speaker added that he was still endorsing Trump, deeming him preferable to the presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Ryan concluded, “We have more likelihood of getting our policies enacted with him than we do with [Clinton].”
Meanwhile, Republican Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey defended Trump’s comments, telling reporters that the business mogul was “not a racist.”
Two of the most prominent Fox News hosts, Megyn Kelly and Bill O’Reilly, also weighed in on the controversy, The Huffington Post reports.
Kelly, a former attorney, blasted Trump’s assertion that Curiel has a conflict of interest as “not the way our system works. ... [I]t would lead to chaos in our court system.”
O’Reilly sided with the GOP nominee, calling for Curiel to recuse himself even though he had done “nothing wrong.”
Several other prominent GOP figures took to social media to defend Judge Curiel. Republican Gov. John Kasich of Ohio demanded that Trump apologize to the judge.
“Attacking judges based on their race &/or religion is another tactic that divides our country,” Kasich wrote on Twitter. “More importantly, it is flat out wrong.”
Former Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, who had appointed Curiel, defended the judge and commended him for his service.
“Judge Curiel is an American hero who stood up to the Mexican cartels,” Schwarzenegger tweeted out. “I was proud to appoint him when I was Gov.”
Former Republican Rep. Newt Gingrich of Georgia had initially condemned Trump’s remarks but softened his stance, saying Curiel was biased because he was a member of the National Council of La Raza, a San Diego-based nonprofit that is pro-immigration, The Washington Post eprorts.
This is not the case. Judge Curiel is actually a member of the San Diego La Raza Lawyers Association, a completely separate and distinct organization comprised of Hispanic lawyers.