US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has offered a message of ethnic harmony at a Christian evangelical conference as he sought to calm concern about his criticism of a Mexican-American judge.
In a departure from his usual freewheeling style, Trump read a carefully scripted speech from a teleprompter on Friday as part of a new push by his campaign to tone down the outspoken New Yorker's harsh rhetoric.
Trump's remarks included a wide-ranging attack on Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, and he said money aimed at resettling Syrian refugees in the US should instead be spent on tackling poverty in US cities.
Speaking to the annual conference of the conservative Faith & Freedom Coalition, made a point of saying he would represent all Americans if elected president on November 8. He did not mention the controversy over his charge that US District Judge Gonzalo Curiel cannot treat him fairly because of his Mexican heritage.
"Freedom of any kind means no one should be judged by their race or their colour and the tone of his hue," Trump said. "Right now, we have a very divided nation. We're going to bring our nation together."
Paul Ryan, the top elected US Republican, had criticised Trump for what he called a "textbook definition of a racist comment" for his remarks about the judge. Other Republican leaders warned Trump to change his tone or risk losing their support.
Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee who led a movement to derail Trump's nomination, blasted Trump for comments he said denigrated Mexicans, women and religion.
"Presidents have an impact on the nature of our nation, and trickle-down racism, trickle-down bigotry and trickle-down misogyny - all these things are extraordinarily dangerous to the heart and character of America," he said.
Romney said he would not vote for either Trump or Clinton, leaving open the possibility of casting a ballot for the Libertarian Party candidate, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson.
Meanwhile, Clinton met US Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts to try to shore up support from the left wing of the Democratic Party.
Clinton later addressed the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the nonpartisan arm of the women's health group, and had Trump in her sights.
"This is a man who has called women pigs, dogs and disgusting animals. It's kind of hard to imagine counting on him to respect our fundamental rights," said Clinton, the first woman to become the presumptive presidential nominee of a major party.
Clinton leads Trump by 11 percentage points, nearly the same as a week ago, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Friday.
Trump said Clinton's refusal to use the phrase "radical Islamic terrorism" - favoured by Republicans to describe violent Islamist militants - made her unfit to be president.
At the evangelical Faith & Freedom conference several speakers studiously avoided speaking his name.
Former campaign rival Carly Fiorina steered clear of naming Trump, speaking instead of the need to prevent liberal policies taking hold.
US Representative Virginia Foxx, a North Carolina Republican, said a Republican president was needed, without mentioning Trump.
But conference organiser Ralph Reed was adamant in his support for Trump, saying the New Yorker had energised the evangelical vote in a way past Republican presidential nominees had failed to do.