Republican leaders in the Senate and House on Tuesday called on fellow Republicans to condemn the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups amid the contentious campaign season.
Speaker Paul D. Ryan took his second rare divergence into the presidential race Tuesday by commenting on Donald Trump's refusal to denounce the KKK, although the speaker did not refer to the presidential front-runner by name.
“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," the Wisconsin Republican said. "This party does not prey on people’s prejudices. We appeal to their highest ideas.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. said later Tuesday that "Senate Republicans condemn David Duke, the KKK and his racism." McConnell urged all Republicans to speak out " in the strongest possible language."
Duke, a past leader in the KKK, announced his support for Trump last week. When asked about it Sunday on CNN's State of the Union, Trump said he didn't know anything about Duke and declined to denounce the white supremacist group, despite multiple questions asking if he would.
"You wouldn't want me to condemn a group that I know nothing about," Trump said. "I would have to look. If you would send me a list of the groups, I will do research on them. And, certainly, I would disavow if I thought there was something wrong."
Ryan previously commented on the presidential race after Trump proposed banning Muslims from entering the United States, saying that such a position does not represent conservative ideals. The speaker did not not name the candidate but condemned his position.
"All people are created equal in the eyes of God and our government," Ryan said Tuesday. "This is fundamental and if someone wants to be our nominee they must understand this."
Ryan added, "I hope this is the last time I need to speak out on this race."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday also condemned Trump for refusing to disavow the KKK, calling it “a breathtaking low-point for our country.” She said Trump with his “racial agenda” is simply being more candid than House Republicans, who have advanced an “agenda of discrimination” for years.
“While disassociating themselves from Trump, House Republicans voted repeatedly to refuse to remove the Confederate Battle Flag from the Capitol grounds,” Pelosi said. “While associating themselves with the heroes of Selma, House Republicans refuse to renew the Voting Rights Act. While House Republicans claim to oppose violence against women, they overwhelmingly voted to exclude immigrant, LGBT and Native American women from the protections of the Violence Against Women Act.”
Staff writer Bridget Bowman contributed.
Contact McPherson at @firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter at @lindsemcpherson
See photos, follies, HOH Hits and Misses and more at Roll Call's new video site.
NEW! Download the Roll Call app for the best coverage of people, politics and personalities of Capitol Hill.