Speaker of the House Paul Ryan took a moment Tuesday to censure Donald Trump's fumble with denouncing white supremacy, in an attempt to be the Republican Party's voice of reason.
"This is the party of Lincoln. "We believe all people are created equal in the eyes of God and our government," Ryan said in reference to the GOP frontrunner's failure to unequivocally denounce former Ku Klux Klan wizard David Duke's endorsement.
When asked whether he would denounce Duke's endorsement on CNN Sunday, Trump claimed he knew nothing of Duke or the support from white supremacists and said he could not denounce anything he did not know about. Trump took a stand against Duke later in the day.
In response, Ryan, without directly naming Trump (but making it extremely clear that he was talking about Trump), tried to cement inclusivity as a fundamental Republican belief:
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. 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 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. It is time we get back to focusing on how, very specifically, how we are going to get to solving the many problems American families are facing after seven years of Barack Obama.
This is the second time Ryan has spoken up against something Trump has said on the presidential campaign, previously denouncing the candidate's idea to ban all Muslims from entering the country.
There is no question that members of the Republican establishment have had to walk a tough line between supporting their party's front-running candidate and standing for common sense.
Trump's campaign has capitalized on outrageous claims about immigration, women, minorities, and terrorism, seemingly striking a chord with conservative voters and even some establishment types, like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who endorsed Trump Friday.
Not everyone buys Ryan's stand for inclusivity
But Ryan's attempt to be the Republican Party's voice of reason furrowed the brows of LGBTQ Americans and their allies, who have only recently been able to see nationwide marriage equality.
It's no secret that same-sex marriage and equal rights regardless of sexual orientation have been controversial talking points on the right. Red states continue to cite religious liberty as a reason not to comply with same-sex marriage laws.
Just on Tuesday, South Dakota's Republican governor, Dennis Daugaard, vetoed a bill that would require transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms based on their gender at birth that passed both the state's Republican-dominated House of Representatives and Senate. This indicates a very real tension within the party over how far to take objections to LGBTQ rights.
"There is an implicit irony in stating candidates should 'reject any group or cause that is built on bigotry' when there are members within the Republican Party — albeit along the GOP's fringe — who do just that," said Gregory Angelo, a spokesperson for Log Cabin Republicans, a conservative group that advocates for LGBTQ rights.
Angelo did, however, acknowledge Ryan's personal support for nondiscrimination legislation and Log Cabin Republicans.
Ryan, who doesn't support same-sex marriage, did say in 2013 that he supported gay couples adopting children.
"We're encouraged by the rhetoric but hope it translates to action, because today LGBT people remain at risk for being fired, evicted, or denied services," JoDee Winterhof, a senior vice president at the Human Rights Campaign, said. "Speaker Ryan has the ability to push for full federal equality for LGBT Americans at his fingertips, and there are real consequences for people every day he sits on his hands."