Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump issued a statement on June 7 to push back against criticism, even from members of his own party, about comments he has made regarding U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel's Mexican heritage.
Trump is defending claims that Curiel, who is overseeing a lawsuit against Trump's defunct university, is biased because of his Mexican heritage.
In a statement posted on his website, Trump said:
It is unfortunate that my comments have been misconstrued as a categorical attack against people of Mexican heritage. I am friends with and employ thousands of people of Mexican and Hispanic descent. The American justice system relies on fair and impartial judges. All judges should be held to that standard.
I do not feel that one’s heritage makes them incapable of being impartial, but, based on the rulings that I have received in the Trump University civil case, I feel justified in questioning whether I am receiving a fair trial.
During a June 2 interview, Trump said Curiel had "an absolute conflict" in presiding over a lawsuit against the now-defunct Trump University because Curiel was "of Mexican heritage" and a member of a Latino lawyers’ association, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Trump added: "I'm building a wall. It's an inherent conflict of interest."
Trump was asked about his comments on June 3 by CNN's Jake Tapper, and stated, "This judge is of Mexican heritage, I'm building a wall."
In the same interview, Trump stated: "I'm building a wall. I'm trying to keep business out of Mexico. Mexico's fine."
"But he's an American," Tapper interjected.
"He's of Mexican heritage, and he's very proud of it, as I am of where I come from," Trump replied.
Trump complained about the rulings by Curiel, but Tapper noted that the GOP front-runner was invoking Curiel's race.
Trump fired back by saying, "I think that's why he's doing it."
"If you are saying he cannot do his job because of his race, is that not the definition of racism?" Tapper asked Trump.
Trump replied, "No, I don't think so at all."
Trump also repeated what he told The Wall Street Journal: "He's a Mexican. We're building a wall between here and Mexico."