House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Tuesday called presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump's comments about a Hispanic judge "indefensible," "wrong" and "racist" — but said Trump still has his vote.
Trump has been trashing Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is presiding over two cases related to Trump University, as incapable of ruling fairly because of his Latino heritage.
"Claiming that a person can't do their job because of their race is sort of like the textbook definition of a racist comment," Ryan told reporters at a news conference.
Ryan said days ago in an op-ed for his hometown Wisconsin paper he'd be voting for Trump, although they'd had their disagreements.
He called Trump's remarks about Curiel — which have been widely condemned by his fellow Republicans — "indefensible" and "absolutely unacceptable."
"But do I believe Hillary Clinton is the answer? No, I do not," Ryan continued.
Asked later on Fox News Radio's Kilmeade and Friends program whether he considers Trump racist, Ryan responded:
"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 textbook – that's what I'm saying. 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."
In the face of bipartisan backlash, Trump has ramped up his attacks on Curiel, an Indiana-born son of Mexican parents, dialing up the rhetoric in keeping with his promises to build a border wall and eject undocumented immigrants from the country en masse.
Trump is fighting lawsuits that accuse his for-profit education venture of scamming students who signed up to learn about real estate by baiting them into paying for high-priced but useless lessons. He says many former students gave Trump University high marks.