Republicans slam Trump's judge remarks

  • 06/06/2016
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Reuters)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Reuters)

Senior US Republicans have distanced themselves from Donald Trump's comments about a Mexican-American judge, saying they are worried that the tone of his presidential campaign could enrage Latinos, who are a growing US voting bloc.

Trump has accused US District Judge Gonzalo Curiel of harbouring a bias against him in lawsuits involving fraud allegations against Trump University, the New York businessman's now-defunct real estate school.

The presumptive Republican nominee has suggested Curiel's Mexican-American heritage had influenced his opinion because of Trump's campaign pledge to build a wall on the US-Mexico border.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Sunday said he "couldn't disagree more" with Trump's comments about the judge.

"I am concerned about the Hispanic vote, America is changing," McConnell told Meet The Press.

"I think it's a big mistake for our party to write off Latino Americans. I am concerned about that and I hope he will change his direction on that."

Democrats have accused Trump of racially tinged rhetoric about Latinos, including his description of Mexican immigrants as "criminals and rapists" in the speech he gave a year ago launching his campaign.

Such rhetoric has exacerbated friction between Trump and Republican party leaders such as McConnell and House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan.

For the past few years, the party has been trying to broaden its appeal with Latino voters and senior Republicans are concerned that Trump's comments could cost the party votes, not only in the presidential race but in congressional races as well.

Former House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich, who has been mentioned as a possible running mate to Trump, called Trump's comments about the judge "inexcusable."

"This is one of the worst mistakes Trump has made," Gingrich told Fox News.

Curiel was born in Indiana to Mexican-immigrant parents.

"He is a member of a club or society very strongly pro Mexican, which is all fine. But I say he's got bias. I want to build a wall," Trump said in an interview on Sunday on Face the Nation.