House Speaker Paul Ryan clarified on Tuesday that while he thinks some of Donald Trump’s attacks on a judge have represented “the textbook definition of a racist comment,” he doesn’t consider the candidate himself to be racist.
After Ryan made the “racist comment” remark at a news conference Tuesday morning, Fox News radio’s “Kilmeade & Friends” asked Ryan if he believes Trump is racist.
“No, I’m not – I’m saying that the comment was. I don’t know what’s in his heart, I can’t speak to that whatsoever. What I’m saying is to suggest that a person’s race disqualifies them to do their job is – that’s what I’m saying,” he said.
“I’m not saying what’s in his heart because I don’t know what is in his heart and I don’t think he feels that in his heart but I don’t think it is wise or justifiable to suggest that a person should be disqualified from their job because of their ethnicity.”
Lee Zeldin, a Republican congressman from New York, made a similar argument Tuesday on CNN.
“As far as his character goes, he isn’t making that statement because he feels like he is superior because he is white and the judge is Mexican,” Zeldin said on CNN. “I don’t think he’s making that statement because internally he feels like he is of a superior race.”
He then turned the racism accusations around on the Democratic Party.
“Quite frankly, the policies I have seen from the Democratic Party when you’re microtargeting a community and you are putting, there are blacks together and Hispanics together and certain economic messages and positions on issues … with the way I define racism, I see it a lot in policies and statements that have taken place,” Zeldin said.
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 repeatedly said Curiel, who is presiding over two lawsuits involving the real-estate mogul’s now-defunct Trump University, cannot be impartial because “he’s a Mexican.” The brash billionaire argued Curiel’s heritage is relevant because of Trump’s promise to build a wall along the US-Mexico border if he’s elected in November.
Curiel was born in Indiana. His parents are Mexican.
Allan Smith contributed to this report.