House Speaker Paul Ryan usually avoids commenting on the presidential race, often citing his role as chairman of the Republican convention.
He made an exception Tuesday morning.
Without referring to Donald Trump by name, the congressman told reporters in Washington that “if a person wants to be the 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.”
Ryan’s comments came two days after Trump, in a CNN interview, refused to disavow the support of onetime Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. The New York billionaire later denounced Duke and blamed his initial response on a faulty earpiece.
Ryan, R-Wis., said Tuesday that “when I see something that runs counter to who we are as a party and as a country, I will speak up.”
“This is the party of Lincoln. We believe all people are created equal in the eyes of God and our government,” said Ryan, Racine County’s representative in Congress. “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.”
Trump led in national and many state polls ahead of Super Tuesday, which featured 11 states holding Republican nominating contests.
Republicans are divided on his candidacy, with some activists pushing a #NeverTrump movement on social media. But Trump headed into Super Tuesday with a head of steam after winning three of the first four contests.
Local Republicans are also wary of a Trump nod. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, told The Journal Times Editorial Board on Monday that having Trump at the top of the ballot could hurt other Republicans running for office.