Of the many, many, many issues Republican front-runner Donald Trump has stirred up in the 24-hour news cycle this past week, his initial refusal to disavow the support of noted white supremacist and former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke takes the top spot. Honestly, Trump’s dismissal of the connection on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday is notable — not just because of how terrible it is, but also because of all the other crap that’s happened since. Yet here we are, still talking about it.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is talking about it, too, as the top Republican addressed the matter during a brief press conference on Super Tuesday. The Wisconsin representative and former Vice Presidential candidate didn’t call out Trump by name, but his intentions were clear — if you’re going to seek the GOP nomination for 2016, then you’d better get on the same, anti-bigotry page.
“I try to stay out of the day-to-day ups and downs of the primary, but I’ve also said that 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 a nominee of the Republican 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,” Ryan noted with a great deal of emphasis, adding: “This is the party of [Abraham] Lincoln!”
Again, Ryan never mentioned Trump or anyone associated with the New York real estate mogul’s presidential campaign by name. He didn’t even discuss Duke or the KKK specifically. Yet his references to “evasion,” “games” and “bigotry” were quite clear — especially because he made them on Super Tuesday, when 11 different states across the country held primaries for both major parties. Which would make perfect sense, as Trump has gotten into trouble over matters of race. Whether it was his alleged removal of several African-American students from a rally because of their ethnicity, or the so-called “Trump bump” many hate groups reportedly received because of the candidate’s rhetoric, Trump and race have never spent too much time apart during this election year.
As the Associated Press, the Washington Post and countless other outlets reported following Sunday’s disastrous interview, fellow Republican hopefuls Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio have condemned Trump and the KKK equally. Both candidates argued essentially for the same thing as Ryan, which was for the Republican party to disavow groups like the KKK unequivocally. Trump later defended himself by blaming his evasive remarks on a faulty earpiece, but this excuse was immediately vilified in the news media.
Before the Speaker addressed the press, Trump changed his tune during a phone interview with Good Morning America. When asked whether or not he rejects all white supremacist groups and their support, he repeatedly said, “Of course I am.”
Ryan concluded his own remarks with a stern warning to all of the potential Republican nominees.
“We believe all people are created equal in the eyes of God and our government. This is fundamental. And if someone wants to be our nominee, they must understand this. I hope this is the last time I need to speak out on this race.”
Neither Trump nor anyone affiliated with his campaign has officially responded to Ryan’s press conference.