Speaker Paul Ryan on Tuesday took aim at GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump and said his party's nominee must reject bigotry.
"Today I want to be very clear about something: If a person wants to be the nominee of the Republican Party, there can be no evasion and no games. They must reject any group or cause that is built on bigotry," Ryan told reporters after the House GOP conference huddled behind closed doors.
Ryan, who did not mention Trump's name, said the conversation in the 2016 race over the last few days has focused on white supremacist groups. He said while he has tried to stay out of the presidential race, he said he'll speak out when a candidate says something that runs counter to his party's values.
The speaker, who was Mitt Romney's 2012 vice presidential nominee, appeared to refer to interviews from political talk shows on Sunday morning in which Trump refused to denounce David Duke, the former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. The 2016 presidential contender later said on Twitter that he disavows Duke.
Many Republicans have since criticized Trump for not immediately condemning him.
"This party does not prey on people's prejudices. We appeal to their highest ideals. This is the party of Lincoln. We believe all people are created equal in the eyes of God and our government. This is fundamental, and if someone wants to be our nominee, they must understand this. I hope this is the last time I need to speak out on this race," Ryan said Tuesday.
Ryan, however, reiterated that he would back his party's nominee. Both he, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said publicly in January that they would support whoever wins the nomination, including Trump or Ted Cruz.
These comments come just hours before polls close in 13 states, which are holding their presidential nominating contests on Tuesday.