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Ryan: GOP nominee must reject bigotry (copy)

House Speaker Paul Ryan, joined by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif., left, tells reporters Tuesday that anyone who wants to be the Republican presidential nominee must reject any racist group or individual.

J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE -- Associated Press

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan has issued another implicit rebuke to Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump, saying the GOP presidential nominee must unequivocally reject bigotry.

The Janesville Republican’s comments came at a Washington press conference Tuesday morning. They were the latest sign of tension between Capitol Hill Republicans and the bombastic candidate who leads their party’s presidential race.

Republican and Democratic office-holders alike have criticized Trump after he repeatedly declined to disavow former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke on a national Sunday TV show. Trump later denounced Duke and blamed the exchange on a faulty earpiece used for the interview.

In Wisconsin, the controversy caused more GOP elected officials to publicly criticize Trump or — in the case of U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh — leave open the possibility of separating from him.

While declining to name Trump, Ryan Tuesday that the whoever is the GOP nominee must not be coy about denouncing white supremacists.

“There can be no evasion and no games,” Ryan said. “This party does not prey on people’s prejudices. “If someone wants to be our nominee, they must understand this.”

But Ryan wasn’t willing to fully break ranks with Trump, as a few in the party have done. Later in the press conference, he reiterated that he plans to support whoever is the GOP presidential nominee.

Ryan rarely addresses developments in the presidential race. The last time he did so was also to denounce something related to Trump: in that case, his proposal to temporarily ban all Muslims from traveling to the U.S.

Ryan and Trump have a testy history. Trump recently blamed Ryan’s 2012 vice presidential candidacy for sinking the presidential bid of his running mate, Mitt Romney.

Trump also said Ryan’s high-profile support for overhauling senior entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security is politically toxic.

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Mark Sommerhauser covers state government and politics for the Wisconsin State Journal.