Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump issued a statement Tuesday saying it “is unfortunate that my comments have been misconstrued as a categorical attack against people of Mexican heritage,” but the statement did not contain an apology.
Trump has been accused of racism for alleging that a judge in a pending case against him cannot be impartial due to his Mexican heritage. Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel, who was born in Indiana, is the judge in the ongoing fraud case against Trump University, the candidate’s now-defunct real estate university. Plaintiffs allege the organization deliberately misled them.
The presumptive Republican nominee is well known for his harsh rhetoric about Mexicans. Trump said that because he wants to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, Curiel cannot be fair in the trial.
“It is unfortunate that my comments have been misconstrued as a categorical attack against people of Mexican heritage. I am friends with and employ thousands of people of Mexican and Hispanic descent,” Trump wrote in the statement. “The American justice system relies on fair and impartial judges. All judges should be held to that standard. I do not feel that one’s heritage makes them incapable of being impartial, but, based on the rulings that I have received in the Trump University civil case, I feel justified in questioning whether I am receiving a fair trial.”
Trump went on to quote students he said were satisfied with the classes they had taken at Trump University and defended the program by saying those who did not feel the same could get their money back through “a generous refund policy.”
Journalists and members of his party have pushed back against Trump’s statements about Curiel. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., said Tuesday said Trump’s comments were “un-American” and that he would not be backing the Republican candidate in November, when he is also up for reelection.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, who endorsed Trump last week, similarly disavowed Trump’s comments as racist on Tuesday morning. But he said the Republican Party had a better chance of getting its policies enacted under a President Trump than under a President Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee.
Trump said he would not comment on the matter any further.