Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell forcefully denounced front-runner Donald Trump’s recent interview in which he did not disavow the Ku Klux Klan.
While not referring to Trump by name, the usually reserved Ryan offered an impassioned stance and waded into the thick of the race on Super Tuesday.
“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,” Ryan said.
In the past, Ryan has tried to distance himself from his party’s divisive presidential primary.
However, how to best deal with the prospects of Donald Trump becoming the GOP nominee has been an ongoing struggle for Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell , R-Ky.
On Tuesday, McConnell said he would continue to avoid getting involved in the contentious presidential contest.
But he underscored that the party “condemns in the strongest possible language David Duke, the KKK, and everything they stand for.”
“Senate Republicans condemn David Duke, the KKK, and his racism,” McConnell said. “That is not the view of Republicans that have been elected to the United States Senate, and I condemn his comments in the most forceful way."
Over the weekend, the New York Times reported that McConnell said vulnerable Republican senators would drop Trump “like a hot rock.”
McConnell would not comment about the need for Republican senators up for reelection needing to distance themselves from Trump, but he did not deny a quote from the New York Times.
Last year, after Trump announced a plan that would ban all Muslims from immigrating to the United States, Ryan went out of his way to say the proposal was, “not conservatism.”
Despite speaking out against Trump, Ryan reiterated his past position that he would eventually support whoever becomes the GOP nominee for president.
Regarding the increasing divisions in the party, Ryan told NBC News, “I never believe our party is beyond the point of repair, of course we don’t want to see divisions in our party, we are conservatives, we believe in the American idea.”