House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) broke his 2016 silence Tuesday to take the oh-so-controversial position that Republicans running for president -- read: Donald Trump -- should maybe denounce the Ku Klux Klan and its former leaders who endorse him.
With polls open in 13 states today, Ryan said candidates and voters should be having a "serious debate" about policy. "Instead the conversation over the last few days has been about white supremacist groups," he said, referring to Trump's refusal to denounce former KKK leader David Duke, who has endorsed Trump for president.
Ryan noted that he has tried to stay out of the day to day of the 2016 race. He previously broke his silence when Trump announced his Muslim travel ban proposal, and he has repeatedly insisted that he will support the GOP nominee, whoever it is -- even though, you know, Ryan seems to think one of those candidates is a racist xenophobe. (His staff confirmed to The Huffington Post that Ryan's position on supporting the nominee has not changed.)
But Ryan said he had to speak out when he sees "something that runs counter to who we are as a party and as a country."
"If a person wants to be the nominee of the Republican Party, there can be no evasion and no games," he said. "They must reject any group or cause that is built on bigotry."
Ryan continued on to say that Republicans should not "prey on people's prejudices."
"We appeal to their highest ideals," he said. "This is the party of Lincoln. We believe all people are created equal in the eyes of God and our government."
Ryan said that point was fundamental. "And if someone wants to be our nominee, they must understand this," he said.
Ryan said he hoped this was the last time he'd have to comment on the 2016 race, but given Trump's popularity and willingness to embrace racist politics for political gain, it's probably not.
On the other side of the Capitol, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) brought up Trump's "seeming ambivalence" toward the KKK, but wouldn't mention the Republican front-runner by name.
"Let me make it perfectly clear: Senate Republicans condemn David Duke, the KKK and its racism," McConnell told reporters after meeting with his conference. "That is not the view of the Republicans that have been elected to the United States Senate and I condemn his comments in the most forceful way."
Pressed on whether he thinks a candidate that doesn't strongly disavow a group like the KKK is suitable to be the party's nominee, McConnell said he plans to "continue to avoid weighing in on the presidential contest" beyond what he said.
Repeating himself, McConnell said Republicans condemn Duke and the KKK and "everything they stand for."
This piece has been updated with comments from McConnell.