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Paul Ryan Joylessly Wades Into Trump’s David Duke Endorsement Fiasco

Ryan GOP Leaders Address Press After Republican Conference MeetingRyan GOP Leaders Address Press After Republican Conference Meeting
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) speaks to the media after closed-door meeting with House Republicans.Photograph by Drew Angerer—Getty Images

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan dipped into the fray of the Republican presidential primary, and he didn’t seem happy about it.

On Tuesday, Ryan called on Republican presidential candidates to “reject any group or cause that is built on bigotry”—a nameless jab at frontrunner Donald Trump for failing to definitively disavow an endorsement from the Ku Klux Klan’s former Grand Wizard David Duke.

“This party does not prey on people’s prejudices,” Ryan said in a press conference with Republican leaders. “This is the Party of Lincoln. We believe all people are created equal in the eyes of God and our government. This is fundamental, and if someone wants to be our nominee, they must understand this.”

Trump claimed not to know who Duke was in an interview Sunday with CNN’s Jake Tapper, and he declined to disavow the Duke’s endorsement. “Honestly, I don’t know David Duke. I don’t believe I’ve ever met him,” he told Tapper. “I’m pretty sure I didn’t meet him, and I just don’t know anything about him.” Before Trump became a politician, he criticized the white supremacist in 2000.

Just two days before the Sunday interview, Trump responded to a question from a reporter about the endorsement and said that he did disavow it. After his interview with Tapper began to draw criticism, the frontrunner tweeted his previous disavowal of Duke:

He blamed his wavering response to the endorsement on a “faulty earpiece” during his CNN interview.

Ryan has kept out of the unpredictable Republican primary, instead forging ahead in shaping a Republican agenda for Congress that is insulated from the bombast of the campaign trail. “I hope this is the last time I need to speak out on this race,” Ryan said during his short statement on Tuesday.