Trump: I Have Too Many Hispanic Friends and Employees to Be a Racist

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump is taking heat from all sides for what are widely viewed as racist comments towards federal judge Gonzalo Curiel, an ex-prosecutor who was born in Indiana and is overseeing litigation of a Trump University fraud case. Trump wrongly maintains the Indiana-born Curiel is “Mexican” and thus biased because of the candidate’s plan to build a wall on the U.S./Mexico border.

Anyone suggesting this makes Trump a racist is wrong, according to Trump.

“It is unfortunate that my comments have been misconstrued as a categorical attack against people of Mexican heritage,” he said in a written statements. “I am friends with and employ thousands of people of Mexican and Hispanic descent.”

He continued, “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.”

In other words, Trump maintains he has no problem with Mexicans, except with the (non) Mexican judge who is overseeing a case regarding a sham seminar program explicitly designed — according to court documents brought to light in multiple lawsuits — to persuade people to pay tens of thousands of dollars many didn’t have for classes many found to be basically worthless.

Trump continues with a lengthy and familiar defense of Trump University, which he had falsely said would feature instructors he’d personally selected because of their long experience in the field: student surveys were positive, unsatisfied students were offered refunds, etc. He then goes into a short rant about “illegal immigration, jobs and unfair trade.” He then promises this would be his last word on the subject.

Trump’s defense came late Tuesday, after Republicans spent days hammering him for his remarks — and just hours after Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk became the first Republican to rescind his endorsement.

“While I oppose the Democratic nominee, Donald Trump’s latest statements, in context with past attacks on Hispanics, women and the disabled like me, make it certain that I cannot and will not support my party’s nominee for President regardless of the political impact on my candidacy or the Republican Party.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan, who has been walking a political tightrope after tepidly endorsing the mogul despite clear differences of both substance and style, struggled to explain how Trump’s remark could be “the textbook definition of a racist comment” without the candidate himself being a racist. Ryan said he continues to back Trump.

For the record, Curiel’s father, who is Mexican, was actually in the U.S. before Trump’s own mother arrived in America from Scotland.

Photo credit: JOSH EDELSON/Getty Images

BY DAVID FRANCIS for http://foreignpolicy.com/.