U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, hoping to help unify Republicans after a divisive presidential primary election campaign, began rolling out his policy agenda on Tuesday only to run straight into the uproar over Donald Trump's comments about a Hispanic judge.
Ryan, flanked by fellow House Republicans, was unveiling a plan to combat poverty through work-related initiatives but immediately found himself in the middle of the latest controversy around the Republican Party's presumptive nominee for the White House.
"I regret those comments that he made. Claiming a person can't do their job because of their race is sort of like the textbook definition of a racist comment. I think that should be absolutely disavowed," Ryan told reporters.
Later in the day, U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said, "My advice to our nominee is to start talking about the issues that the American people care about, and to start doing it now," McConnell told reporters when asked about Trump's comments.
"In addition to that, it's time to quit attacking various people that you competed with or various minority groups in the country and get on message," he said.
Trump has faced a barrage of criticism from his own party over his allegations of bias against a Hispanic judge. He refused to back down on Monday on his comments last week suggesting that Mexican-American U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is overseeing fraud lawsuits against Trump University, is biased against him because of his heritage.
Despite his strong condemnation of Trump on this issue, Ryan, the country's highest-ranking elected Republican, still sought to present Trump's candidacy as the way forward for Republicans. "We have more likelihood of getting our policies enacted with him than we do with (Democrat Hillary Clinton)," he said.