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Paul Ryan says Trump's judge comments are "textbook" racism — but he's still backing Trump

Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty
Andrew Prokop is a senior politics correspondent at Vox, covering the White House, elections, and political scandals and investigations. He’s worked at Vox since the site’s launch in 2014, and before that, he worked as a research assistant at the New Yorker’s Washington, DC, bureau.

In a press conference Tuesday, House Speaker Paul Ryan sharply condemned Republican nominee Donald Trump's recent attack on Judge Gonzalo Curiel as "the textbook definition of a racist comment" — but reaffirmed that he intended to keep on supporting Trump anyway.

To recap: Judge Curiel is presiding over two class-action suits against Trump University, but Trump has argued that Curiel has "an absolute conflict" in the case simply because of his "Mexican heritage" (though Curiel was born in Indiana.) Trump told the Wall Street Journal: "I’m building a wall. It’s an inherent conflict of interest."

Ryan condemned that blatant bigotry in strong terms Tuesday. "I disavow these comments," he said. "I regret those comments that he made. I don't think — claiming a person can't do their job because of their race is sorta the textbook definition of a racist comment. I think that should be absolutely disavowed. It's absolutely unacceptable."

But these condemnations may ring rather hollow, since he went on to reaffirm that he intended to keep backing Trump's presidential candidacy. "Do I believe that Hillary Clinton is the answer? No, I do not," Ryan continued. The speaker added that he thinks Republicans and Trump "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."

Essentially, Ryan is saying that "textbook" racism against a Mexican-American judge is something he can live with, because Trump is more in tune with his party on major policy issues like cutting federal spending and slashing taxes. "At the end of the day, this is about ideas, this is about moving our agenda forward, and that's why we're moving the way we're moving," Ryan continued. That may be quite a jarring message for Hispanic voters to hear.

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