- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 12, 2015

Presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham demanded Sunday that fellow Republicans reject Donald Trump’s derogatory remarks about illegal immigrants from Mexico, saying that the party otherwise will lose Hispanic voters and the “moral authority” to govern.

“He hijacked the debate. I think he is a wrecking ball for the future of the Republican Party with the Hispanic community, and we need to push back,” Mr. Graham said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“At the end of the day, this is a defining moment for the Republican Party,” he said. “If we don’t reject it, we have lost the moral authority, in my view, to govern this country.”

Mr. Trump, who also is running for the Republican presidential nomination, has come under intense criticism for saying illegal immigrants from Mexico are drug dealers, criminals and rapists, and calling for more aggressive border security and enforcement of immigration laws.

Still, Mr. Trump is among the top tier of candidates in recent polls, and Mr. Graham is near the back of the pack in the crowded GOP field.

Mr. Trump has said that he is speaking for the “silent majority” that is fed up with illegal immigration.

Mr. Graham, who has worked on the border security issue for a decade, called Mr. Trump a “demagogue” and said his comments were “offensive at every level.”

“For all the Republicans who think that Donal Trump is telling the truth, I think you’ve lost your way,” the South Carolina Republican said. “As to the Republican Party, if we do not reject this way of thinking, clearly, without any ambiguity we will have lost our way and we will have lost the moral authority in my view to govern this great nation.”

He said that Mr. Trump has got it backwards.

“I’ve come to conclude that most illegal immigrants are decent hard-working people and some of them are criminals,” he said.

• S.A. Miller can be reached at smiller@washingtontimes.com.

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