Trump made 'textbook definition of a racist comment' over judge, says Paul Ryan

Trump made 'textbook definition of a racist comment' over judge, says Paul Ryan

Donald Trump made the "textbook definition of a racist comment" in saying an American-born judge is not qualified to preside over a case because of his Mexican heritage, US House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan has said.

"I regret those comments 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," Republican Mr Ryan said. "I think that should be absolutely disavowed. It's absolutely unacceptable."

Mr Ryan's comments highlight acute Republican Party divisions around Mr Trump's candidacy, as Republicans squirm over what may be the billionaire's most incendiary stance to date - the claim that US District Judge Gonzalo Curiel cannot preside over his case fairly because the judge is of Mexican heritage and Mr Trump wants to build a wall between the US and Mexico.

The controversy comes as Republicans are struggling to close ranks behind Mr Trump, and complicates those efforts.

Mr Ryan endorsed Mr Trump only last week after a lengthy delay, just before the judge controversy lit up, and affirmed that stance afresh on Tuesday even while he was unstinting in his criticism of Mr Trump's comments on the judge. "But do I believe Hillary Clinton is the answer? No, I do not," he said.

"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," Mr Ryan said.

"But I do absolutely disavow those comments, I think they're wrong, I think they're wrongheaded, and the thinking behind it is something I don't even personally relate to."

Democrats immediately ridiculed Mr Ryan for denouncing Mr Trump's comments as racist yet continuing to back his candidacy.

"Paul Ryan continues to endorse someone who spews racist rhetoric - the 'textbook definition' of a coward more concerned with partisan politics than the good of the country," said Meredith Kelly, spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Judge Curiel, who is presiding over a case alleging that Trump University fleeced students, was born in Indiana to parents who came from Mexico in the 1940s.

Mr Trump has been questioned repeatedly about his stance that the judge's ethnicity makes him unqualified to preside over his case, but has refused to retract his comments, and may not be any likelier to do so in response to Mr Ryan's complaints.

Mr Ryan made his comments at an event in a low-income neighbourhood of Washington, DC, where he was unveiling new proposals to fight poverty, the first piece in a six-plank governing agenda by the House Republican Party.

But instead of discussing his poverty proposals he was forced to deal with numerous questions on Mr Trump, illustrating the latter's tendency to create troublesome distractions for members of his own party. The controversy over the judge is proving particularly problematic and leading Republicans have taken turns denouncing Mr Trump's comments.

While some others have sought to avoid calling Mr Trump or his comments out-and-out racist, Mr Ryan levelled the charge matter-of-factly while still attempting to steer the conversation back to his agenda.

"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," Mr Ryan said.

"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 going to lose, and that's why I am going to be focused on these ideas and these solutions and not attempt to defend the indefensible."

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