House Speaker Paul Ryan isn’t walking back his support for Donald Trump’s campaign, but he said Thursday that he would continue to speak out when the GOP nominee’s remarks could harm the party.
In an interview with a Wisconsin radio station, Ryan said there were no “blank checks” for his support. But he added that Trump’s recent struggles were not enough to cause him to withdraw it.
“If I see a situation where our conservative principles are being distorted, I’m going to stand up for those conservative principles,” Ryan said on “The Jerry Bader Show” on WTAQ in Green Bay, Wis. “If I see and hear things that are wrong, I’m not going to sit by and say nothing because I think I have a duty as a Republican leader to defend Republican principles and our party brand. That’s what I said I would do when I endorsed him.”
The speaker has been critical of Trump’s feud with Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the parents of a Muslim American soldier killed in Iraq. The Khans spoke out against Trump at the Democratic National Convention, and Trump criticized them in response.
“You do nothing but honor Gold Star families, and if anyone earned the right to say whatever they want, it is Gold Star families,” Ryan said Thursday. “I thought [Trump’s] comments were … beyond the pale and I called it out … I don’t like doing this, but I will do this because I feel I have to.”
In a statement last week, Ryan said criticizing Gold Star families was unacceptable and that they deserved greater respect. Trump then told the Washington Post on Tuesday that he would not endorse Ryan in his GOP primary, saying he was “not quite there yet.”
“I like Paul, but these are horrible times for our country. We need very strong leadership. We need very, very strong leadership.”
The day before, Trump thanked Ryan’s opponent, businessman Paul Nehlen, for his support. The Wisconsin GOP primary is next Tuesday.
Thanks to @pnehlen for your kind words, very much appreciated.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 1, 2016
Trump has become embroiled in other controversies in recent days, including remarks he made about a Russian invasion of Ukraine and his claim that the election would be “rigged” against him.
Ryan said the party has to move beyond those missteps and focus its attention on the flaws of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
“He’s had a pretty strange run since the convention.” Ryan said. “You would think that we want to be focusing on Hillary Clinton, on all of her deficiencies. She is such a weak candidate that one would think that we would be on offense against Hillary Clinton, and it is distressing that that’s not what we’re talking about these days”