House Speaker Paul Ryan says he hopes his endorsement of Donald Trump — and next week’s unveiling of a wide-ranging conservative agenda — will be a turning point in the 2016 race.
But in the same interview, just one day after he endorsed Trump, Ryan disavowed the presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s accusations of bias against a judge because of his “Mexican heritage.”
“We shouldn’t be speaking to fellow citizens in ways that divide us,” Ryan told the Journal Sentinel on Friday. “I think the comments about the Mexican-American judge are not called for, and I don’t even understand the line of thinking behind it.”
Ryan has been working to shift the 2016 presidential race away from a personality contest to one focused on ideas. Those efforts have so far been unsuccessful, but the Janesville Republican is hoping the new GOP agenda, dubbed “A Better Way,” will change that.
“Yes, this has been more of a personality contest election. Until now, that is, as far as we’re concerned,” Ryan said Friday in an interview with the Journal Sentinel. “We believe — we being House Republicans — we believe we can add some substance to this conversation.”
Last month, Ryan made it clear he was not ready to endorse Trump, saying the real estate mogul first needed to unify the GOP and show a commitment to conservative principles.
Ryan said his endorsement Thursday of the real estate mogul and presumptive Republican nominee came only after a month of meetings and discussions with Trump and his team “to make sure that Donald and his staff understood where we were going on substance.”
“I wanted to make sure that our nominee, someone I did not know and someone that’s new to governing and principles and policies and politics, was comfortable with where we are going,” Ryan said. “And that was important to me. That we actually have an understanding of one another, and an understanding of the critical principles that animate conservatives that we think are necessary to put the country back on track.”
Ryan added that he won’t refrain from speaking out when Trump says things he disagrees with or finds offensive, adding that the two have spoken about Trump’s call for a ban on Muslims entering the United States.
“Yes, I will continue to speak out if need be. I hope it’s not necessary. Yes, I am concerned,”Ryan said.
Ryan also sharply criticized Trump’s recent comments about a federal judge presiding over a lawsuit filed by former students of Trump University, whom he called a “hater” and pointed out his Mexican heritage.
At a rally last week, Trump reportedly said the judge, Gonzalo Curiel, “happens to be, we believe, Mexican,” and suggested he was biased because of Trump’s calls to build a wall along the border to prevent illegal immigration. Trump repeated those comments in an interview this week.
“I’m building the wall, I’m building the wall,” Trump told The New York Times. “I have a Mexican judge. He’s of Mexican heritage. He should have recused himself, not only for that, for other things.”
Ryan criticized his comments, pointing out that the judge is “a guy from Indiana.”
“That to me is something that makes it harder to unify and have an inclusive campaign that’s inspiring,” he said. “And we’re going to continue working on that.”
Ryan announced his endorsement of Trump, vowing to for the New York mogul in the fall, in an opinion piece in his hometown newspaper, the Janesville Gazette.