WASHINGTON — House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told reporters today that Donald Trump made “sort of like the textbook definition of a racist comment” regarding U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel.
In a May 27 speech in San Diego, Trump spent 12 minutes talking about Trump University lawsuit and bashing Judge Gonzalo Curiel, a former prosecutor who took on the Arellano Felix cartel before being appointed to the state bench by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California by President Obama in 2012.
“The trial is going to take place sometime in November. There should be no trial. This should have been dismissed on summary judgment easily,” Trump said during the rally. “Everybody says it, but I have a judge who is a hater of Donald Trump, a hater. He’s a hater. His name is Gonzalo Curiel.”
“The judge, who happens to be, we believe, Mexican, which is great, I think that’s fine. You know what? I think the Mexicans are going to end up loving Donald Trump when I give all these jobs, OK?”
Curiel, who has delayed the start of the Trump trial until after the election in November, was born in Indiana to Mexican immigrant parents. Schwarzenegger jumped into the fray with a tweet on Monday: “Judge Curiel is an American hero who stood up to the Mexican cartels. I was proud to appoint him when I was Gov.”
Trump has continued to bring up Curiel’s Mexican heritage in interviews, insisting on Bill O’Reilly’s show last night, “I don’t care about the Mexican. But we are being treated unfairly.” That was after Bloomberg reported on a strategy call with surrogates and supporters in which the presumptive GOP nominee told everyone to intensify their attacks on the judge.
At a press conference on alleviating poverty today in Washington, Ryan, who endorsed Trump last week, said, “I disavow these — I regret those comments that he made.”
“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. It’s absolutely unacceptable,” he added.
“But do I believe that Hillary Clinton is the answer? No, I do not. Do I believe that Hillary Clinton is going to be the answer to solving these problems? I do not. I believe that we have more common ground on the policy issues of the day and we have more likelihood of getting our policies enacted with him than we do with her,” the speaker continued.
“But I do absolutely disavow those comments. I think they’re wrong. I don’t think they’re right-headed and the thinking behind it is something I don’t even personally relate to. But at the end of the day, this is about ideas. This is about moving our agenda forward and that’s why we’re moving the way we’re moving.”
Ryan said he has talked in the past with Trump about “the tone of his campaign, the ideas, and we have had an exhaustive discussion about these policies — not just our teams, but ourselves personally.”
“The way I look at this is if you say something that’s wrong, I think the mature and responsible thing is to acknowledge it was wrong,” he said. “…I don’t know what’s in his heart, but I think that comment itself is defined that way. So I am not going to defend these kinds of comments because they’re indefensible. I’m going to defend our ideas, I’m going to defend our majority. And I think our likelihood of getting these ideas into law are far more likely if we are unified as a party, and so I see it as my job as speaker of the House to help keep our party unified.”
“I think if we go into the fall as a divided party, we are — we are doomed to lose, and that is why I’m going to be focusing on these ideas, these solutions and not attempt to try and defend the indefensible.”