Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan spoke out against bigotry in a press conference on Tuesday, responding to GOP frontrunner Donald Trump’s refusal on Sunday to condemn the Ku Klux Klan.
Ryan differentiated the Republican Party from expressions of prejudice and called on any prospective party nominee to do the same.
“When I see something that runs counter to who we are as a party and as a country, I will speak up, so today I want to be very clear about something: If a person wants to be the nominee of the Republican Party, there can be no evasion and no games,” Ryan said, as voters head to the polls on Super Tuesday.
“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 equal in the eyes of God and our government. This is fundamental, and if someone wants to be our nominee, they must understand this.”
Ryan’s comments come after Trump refused to condemn the KKK or denounce his endorsement by former Klansman David Duke in an interview on Sunday, a move that drew strong criticism from establishment Republicans and Trump’s primary rivals Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
Trump later blamed his response on a faulty earpiece and said he had barely heard the question about the endorsement.
“What I heard was ‘various groups,’” Trump said. “I have no problem disavowing groups but I’d at least like to know who they are. It’d be very unfair disavowing a group if they shouldn’t be disavowed.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell echoed Ryan’s comments later on Tuesday without mentioning Trump by name, according to several reporters.
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Write to Katie Reilly at Katie.Reilly@time.com