Things have gotten so awkward for some Republicans on Capitol Hill that they’d prefer to plead ignorance about their presumptive presidential nominee, real estate mogul Donald Trump, rather than answer questions about his no-holds-barred attacks on Muslims.
Though many Republicans distanced themselves Tuesday from Trump’s remarks, some lawmakers preferred instead to beg off inquiries from reporters, claiming they had simply not heard Trump’s speech the day prior in which he doubled down on his proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States.
Asked about Trump’s suggestion that President Barack Obama is sympathetic to Islamic terrorism, and that the president may have been somehow connected to Sunday’s shooting at an Orlando gay nightclub, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also decided to take a pass.
“I’m not going to be commenting on the presidential candidate today,” McConnell told reporters, notably avoiding calling Trump by name.
Across the Capitol, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) distanced himself from Trump’s rhetoric and proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States, telling reporters he did not think the ban was “in our country’s interests.” But he, too, declined to comment on Trump’s dark insinuation against the president.
Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) took a similar tack.
“Aw, man. I’m not going to speak to that,” she told The Huffington Post when asked about Trump’s proposals. “I won’t give you an answer on that today.”
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), meanwhile, refused to even refer to Trump as the party’s presumptive nominee, even though the Manhattan businessman has secured enough delegates to clinch the nomination next month at the GOP convention.
Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) headed down a flight of stairs and kept walking out of the Capitol as HuffPost tried to get his response to Trump’s comments about Muslims.
“I don’t make any comments on the presidential candidates,” Enzi said. “If you’ve got an issue you want to talk to me about that I’m working on, I’m happy to talk about it.”
Asked if that means he has no thoughts on Trump being his party’s presidential nominee, the Wyoming senator paused, and before walking off, said only, “Not that I’m sharing.”
The Republican National Committee, which has fully embraced Trump, issued a statement in response to a searing rebuttal from Obama on Tuesday. His voice steadily rising, the president castigated Republican officials who did not stand up against Trump’s toxic proposals and claimed his anti-Muslim bashing would threaten America at home and abroad.
The RNC’s statement, however, included no reference to Trump or his proposed ban — almost as if it were issued in an alternate universe in which he did not exist.
Jennifer Bendery contributed reporting.
Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist