NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said his comments about the judge presiding over the Trump University lawsuits have been “misconstrued.”
The billionaire previously claimed that U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel can’t preside fairly over a case involving Trump University because the judge is of Mexican heritage and Trump wants to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. Curiel was born in Indiana.
“It is unfortunate that my comments have been misconstrued as a categorical attack against people of Mexican heritage,” Trump said in a statement Tuesday. “I am friends with and employ thousands of people of Mexican and Hispanic descent.”
Trump said that he felt “justified” if he could receive a fair trial under Curiel.
“The American justice system relies on fair and impartial judges. All judges should be held to that standard,” the presumptive nominee said. “I do not feel that one’s heritage makes them incapable of being impartial, but, based on rulings that I have received in the Trump University civil case, I feel justified in questioning whether I am receiving a fair trial.”
Trump continued, “Due to what I believe are unfair and mistaken rulings in this case and the Judge’s reported associations with certain professional organizations, questions were raised regarding the Obama appointed Judge’s impartiality. It is a fair question. I hope it is not the case.”
Trump also slammed the media for reporting “one inaccuracy after another” regarding the university’s lawsuits.
Trump’s statement comes after several Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, denounced the billionaire over his comments about Curiel.
“I regret those comments he made. 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 at a news conference. “I think that should be absolutely disavowed. It’s absolutely unacceptable.”
The flap comes as Republicans are struggling to close ranks behind Trump, and complicates those efforts. Ryan endorsed Trump only last week after a lengthy delay, just before the judge controversy flared, and affirmed that stance again Tuesday even while he was unstinting in his criticism of Trump’s comments. “But do I believe Hillary Clinton is the answer? No, I do not,” Ryan said.
“I believe that we have more common ground on the policy issues of the day, and we have more likelihood of getting our policies enacted with him than we do with her,” Ryan said. “But I do absolutely disavow those comments, I think they’re wrong, I think they’re wrongheaded, and the thinking behind it is something I don’t even personally relate to.”
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