U.S. Rep. Raúl Labrador slammed Donald Trump on Thursday for racially charged rhetoric about a Hispanic judge but said he still supported his party’s nominee for president on a policy basis.
Earlier this week, Trump accused Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is presiding over a class-action lawsuit against Trump University, of potential bias based on his Mexican heritage, as the candidate has proposed building a wall along the Mexican border.
“I will not stand idly by listening to a person attacking the integrity of a judge because of their ethnicity,” Labrador, an Idaho Republican, said at a monthly news conference he holds with a group of his fellow conservatives in the House of Representatives. “That is absolutely morally abhorrent.”
Labrador said that while he disagreed with some of the comments Trump had made over the course of his campaign, he agreed with the candidate on a number of substantive issues.
“I don’t know that there’s a lot of difference in the agenda between Trump and conservatives on some issues . . . but I do want to make a clear distinction between policies and statements,” Labrador said. “Did every person who voted for Bill Clinton, did they endorse every one of Bill Clinton’s actions? I don’t think so.”
Did every person who voted for Bill Clinton, did they endorse every one of Bill Clinton’s actions? I don’t think so. Rep. Raúl Labrador, R-Idaho
Labrador’s position on Trump’s repeated controversial comments aligns with that of a number of his Republican counterparts.
On Tuesday, just five days after he’d formally endorsed the business mogul for president, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., strongly criticized Trump’s remarks about Curiel.
“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.
Nonetheless, Ryan has expressed no regret over his endorsement, and he said Hillary Clinton was not the answer to Trump’s statements.
When pressed on the possibility of supporting a Republican alternative to Trump, Labrador said that if his party’s establishment had a concrete plan to back a known conservative such as Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas or Rand Paul of Kentucky, he and his fellow Freedom Caucus members might be in favor of that. But according to the congressman, no such plan exists.
“When there was a moment of truth, there was a moment when you had two choices, between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, who did the establishment back? Donald Trump,” he said. “If you want to thank somebody for Donald Trump, thank John Boehner and Mitch McConnell.”
Labrador, left without a better alternative and for fear of the so-called “greater evil” of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton prevailing, said he’d definitely be voting for Trump this November.
“We believe that Hillary poses a bigger threat,” he said.
John Tompkins: 202-383-6041.