Ryan denounces Trump over KKK dust-up: ‘There can be no evasion and no games’

Getty Images

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Tuesday delivered a scathing rebuke of Donald Trump, warning that the GOP presidential front-runner cannot engage in “evasion” or “games” when it comes to rejecting bigotry.

But as the chairman of the GOP nominating convention in July, Ryan said he plans to support the eventual nominee of his party.

{mosads}”This is the kind of moment where we should be having a serious debate about the policies needed to restore the American idea,” Ryan told reporters on Super Tuesday. “Instead, the conversation over the last few days has been over white supremacy groups.” 

Ryan’s remarks come just days after an interview in which Trump repeatedly declined to disavow former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke, who had endorsed Trump for president. The GOP front-runner later said he couldn’t hear the question due to a bad earpiece and that he had already disavowed Duke last week.

For Ryan, Tuesday marked the second time this election cycle that he has denounced remarks made by Trump, the billionaire businessman who appears on his way to winning the Republican nomination. In December, Ryan rejected a plan by Trump to ban all Muslims from entering the United States in the wake of ISIS terrorist attacks.

“I try to stay out of the ups and downs of the primary, but I’ve also said when I see something that runs counter to who we are as a party and a country, I will speak up,” Ryan said Tuesday, without mentioning Trump by name. “If a person wants to be the nominee of the party, there can be no evasion and no games. They must reject any group or cause that is built on bigotry.

“This party does not prey on people’s prejudices. We appeal to their highest ideals. This is the party of Lincoln. We believe all people are created equal in the eyes of God and our government,” Ryan added. “This is fundamental, and if someone wants to be our nominee, they have to understand this.

“I hope this is the last time I have to speak out on this race,” he said.

Just weeks after his election as Speaker, Ryan condemned Trump’s proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the U.S. — a plan Ryan said was unconstitutional because it violates the freedom of religion.

“This is not conservatism,” Ryan, the GOP’s 2012 vice presidential nominee, said at the time. “What was proposed yesterday is not what this party stands for and, more importantly, it’s not what this country stands for.”

The latest intraparty battle highlights the growing divide between the Republican presidential front-runner and Republicans on Capitol Hill.

Trump, a political outsider riding a wave of anti-establishment anger, appears unconcerned about offending minorities and other groups. But both Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) are aware they need support from many of those voters to protect Republican incumbents running in swing districts and swing states.

While Trump has picked up his first congressional endorsements in recent days, other Republicans say they will not support him as their nominee under any circumstances.

Updated at 11:30 a.m.

Tags Donald Trump Mitch McConnell Paul Ryan
See all Hill.TV See all Video