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McConnell To Trump: ‘Get On Message’

Cheryl Beckley | WKU PBS

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has followed through on some principles laid out in his recent autobiography — rebuking GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump for comments made against a federal judge of Mexican descent.

In his book “The Long Game,” McConnell underscores his support for civil rights, saying he withdrew his support for Republican Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential election because of the Arizona senator’s opposition to the Civil Rights Act.

At a Washington press conference on Tuesday, McConnell told reporters that he disapproved of Trump’s comments against the judge.

“It’s time to stop attacking various people that you competed with or various minority groups in the country,” McConnell said.

Trump has made statements that Gonzalo Curiel, a federal judge presiding over a lawsuit against the presidential candidate’s defunct Trump University, would rule unfairly in the case because of Trump’s proposal to build a wall along the southern border of the U.S. with Mexico.

Curiel’s parents are from Mexico but he was born in Indiana.

McConnel said Trump needs to “get on message” because the race against presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton “is imminently winnable.”

“The American people at their core do not want four more years like the last eight,” McConnell said. “We’re all anxious to hear what he may say next.”

In his book, McConnell talks about how Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater’s opposition to the Civil Rights Act in 1964 hurt the Republican Party for decades.

“…[A]t the time, all anyone could say about Republicans on this issue was that we had nominated a candidate who opposed the civil rights bill,” he wrote.

Scott Jennings, a former adviser to McConnell and President George W. Bush says that McConnell’s comments about Trump show that he is trying to make sure the election doesn’t cause the party “serious problems” this year and down the road.

“If you try to run an entire presidential election on comments and issues like that, it is a recipe for disaster in November,” Jennings said. “History will remember everything you say and history will remember the banner under which you said it.”

Trump says that his comments about Judge Curiel have been “misconstrued as a categorical attack against people of Mexican heritage.”

McConnell says he still supports Trump’s candidacy.

Republican Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois has withdrawn his support for Trump, saying his comments were “un-American.”

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives. He's covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin. He has a bachelor's degree from the University of Chicago and a master's degree in journalism from the University of Texas. He grew up in Lexington.

Email Ryland at
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