Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan doubled down on his criticism of Donald Trump’s comments about Judge Gonzalo Curiel on Tuesday, calling them “indefensible.”
Trump has repeatedly argued that Curiel, who is hearing the class-action lawsuit against Trump University, has an “absolute conflict” of interest because of his Mexican heritage, given Trump’s promise to build a wall on the Mexican border. Curiel is an American, born in Indiana to Mexican immigrant parents.
“I am not going to defend these kind of comments because they are indefensible,” Ryan said at a press conference in Washington, D.C., which was called to discuss a new conservative effort to tackle poverty. “Claiming a person can’t do their job because of their race is sort of like the textbook definition of a racist comment.”
Ryan said it would be “mature and responsible” for Trump to admit he was wrong. The Speaker said he has not changed his mind about supporting Trump in the general election.
“It’s absolutely unacceptable, but do I believe that Hillary Clinton is the answer? No, I do not,” Ryan said. “At the end of the day, this is about ideas, this is about moving our agenda forward.”
Hours later, Ryan expanding on his comments in an interview with Brian Kilmeade on “Kilmeade and Friends.”
When the host asked Ryan if he was saying Trump was a racist, Ryan answered, “No, I’m not. I’m saying his 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.”
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie defended Trump on Tuesday.
“Donald Trump is not a racist,” Christie told reporters, “So the allegations that he is are absolutely contrary to every experience that I’ve had with him over the last 14 years… Congressman Ryan is entitled to his opinion.”
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Write to Katie Reilly at Katie.Reilly@time.com