Several Republicans moved to distance themselves from billionaire Donald Trump’s comments on illegal immigrants fueling crime even as Mr. Trump doubled down, citing last week’s San Francisco shooting to bolster his case.
At an Independence Day parade in Merrimack, New Hampshire, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said Mr. Trump “doesn’t represent the Republican Party or its values.”
“He thinks that every Mexican crossing the border is a rapist? I mean, so he’s doing this to inflame and to incite and to draw attention, which seems to be his organizing principle of his campaign,” Mr. Bush told reporters.
The reaction to Mr. Trump’s remarks was fodder for the Sunday talk shows, during which Republican lawmakers were repeatedly asked by journalists to disavow the comments or stand by them. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry said, “I will stand up and say those [comments] were offensive, which they were.”
“The fact is, I’ve said very clearly that Donald Trump does not represent the Republican Party,” Mr. Perry said on ABC’s “This Week.”
“I was offended by his remarks. Hispanics in America and Hispanics in Texas from the Alamo to Afghanistan have been extraordinary citizens of our country and our state, they have served nobly, and to paint with that broad a brush as Donald Trump did — he’s going to have to defend those remarks,” Mr. Perry said.
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In interviews and posts on Twitter, however, Mr. Trump defended the comments from his June 16 announcement for the Republican presidential nomination, when he said illegal immigrants from Mexico are “bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime.”
He added, “They’re rapists and some, I assume, are good people.”
He cited the shooting death of 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle, who was walking along San Francisco’s Pier 14 with her father Wednesday. Arrested in connection with the shooting was Francisco Sanchez, 45, who had been deported five times and was released in March by San Francisco officials, consistent with the city’s “sanctuary policy” despite the federal government’s request to detain him.
“As seen with the tragic and unnecessary death of Kathryn Steinle this past week in San Francisco at the hands of an illegal immigrant who was previously deported five times, our unsecured border is a national security threat,” Mr. Trump said in a statement to Breitbart News.
Not all Republicans were critical of Mr. Trump. Deliberately avoiding the Trump pile-on was Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who said he refused to participate in “Republican-on-Republican violence” and that liberal journalists were trying to make a talking point and to stifle discussion of immigration.
“I salute Donald Trump for focusing on the need to address illegal immigration,” Mr. Cruz said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“The Washington cartel doesn’t want to address that. The Washington cartel doesn’t believe we need to secure the borders. The Washington cartel supports amnesty, and I think amnesty’s wrong. And I salute Donald Trump for focusing on it,” Mr. Cruz said.
He said Mr. Trump “has a colorful way of speaking. It’s not the way I speak. But I’m not going to engage in the media’s game of throwing rocks and attacking other Republicans.”
Former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania said, “People who are coming illegally, obviously, are coming with a bad intent. Let’s just be honest.
“They’re coming with the clear intent of breaking the law. I don’t think we can sugarcoat that, but that doesn’t mean that everybody who’s coming across is a rapist or a murderer or anything else,” Mr. Santorum said on the CBS program “Face the Nation.”
“While I don’t like the verbiage he’s used, I like the fact that he is focused on a very important issue for American workers and particularly legal immigrants in this country,” he said.
A number of businesses reacted to Mr. Trump’s comments by cutting ties with the mogul. NBC-TV said it no longer would broadcast the Trump-produced Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants. Univision pulled its plans to run the Miss USA pageants, and Macy’s dropped his clothing line.
Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida issued a statement Friday calling Mr. Trump’s comments “not just offensive and inaccurate, but also divisive.”
“Our broken immigration system is something that needs to be solved, and comments like this move us further from — not closer to — a solution. We need leaders who offer serious solutions to secure our border and fix our broken immigration system,” Mr. Rubio said.
Meanwhile, Mr. Trump followed the adage that the best defense is a good offense. He called Mr. Rubio “very weak” on immigration during a CNN interview and criticized Mr. Perry on “Fox & Friends” for not doing more to shore up the border during his 14-year term in office as governor of the state that holds the largest part of the Mexican border.
Mr. Perry fired back by saying, “I don’t think he understands the challenge, obviously.
“When it became abundantly clear that the president wasn’t going to deal with this issue, we acted last summer, we surged our law enforcement and our National Guard,” Mr. Perry said. “We had a 74 percent decrease of apprehensions in that region of the border where the real challenges were.”
Mr. Perry added, “My bet is that Mr. Trump doesn’t know that.”