Paul Ryan on Tuesday disavowed Donald Trump’s attacks on a federal judge over his Mexican heritage but suggested that Trump was still a better option than presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
“Claiming a person can’t do their job because of race is sort of like the textbook definition of a racist comment,” the House speaker said during a Tuesday news conference.
Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, has prompted a firestorm of criticism in recent days with his attacks on US District Judge Gonzalo Curiel over his Mexican heritage.
Trump has said Curiel, who is presiding over two cases involving the Manhattan businessman’s now-defunct Trump University, cannot be impartial because “he’s a Mexican.” Trump says Curiel’s heritage matters because of Trump’s promise to build a wall along the US-Mexico border is he’s elected in November.
Curiel was born in Indiana.
Republicans from all corners of the party have criticized Trump for the racially charged attacks. That includes Ryan, who distanced himself during a Friday interview, just one day after ending a monthlong standoff over whether he would endorse the bombastic real-estate magnate.
“I think that should be absolutely disavowed,” Ryan said Tuesday. “It’s absolutely unacceptable. But do I believe that Hillary Clinton is the answer? No I do not.”
Ryan added that he and Trump had “more common ground on the policy issues of the day.” And he suggested he was much more likely to get progression on his agenda, which began rolling out Tuesday, in a theoretical Trump administration than in a Clinton administration.
“But I do absolutely disavow those comments,” he continued. “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.”