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Under fire, Trump tries to explain away racism controversy

The Trump campaign tried to lower the temperature yesterday on the scandal surrounding Trump's racist rhetoric. It really didn't go well.
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump reads a teleprompter as he addresses his supporters at the Trump National Golf Club Westchester in Briarcliff Manor, June 7, 2016. (Photo by Andrew Kelly/EPA)
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump reads a teleprompter as he addresses his supporters at the Trump National Golf Club Westchester in Briarcliff Manor, June 7, 2016.
When a major political party spends the day debating the degree to which its presidential candidate is a racist, it's not in a good place. By this measure, yesterday was probably the lowest point of Donald Trump's presidential campaign thus far, with a firestorm of controversy surrounding his racist criticisms of U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who's presiding over the civil suit against "Trump University."
The candidate has ignored calls to apologize for, or at least walk back, his comments, but Republican leaders have nevertheless made clear to Trump that the feeding frenzy has cost his campaign dearly.
So, Team Trump issued a written clarification yesterday, in an apparent attempt to lower the temperature. His comments, the GOP candidate said, "have been misconstrued." It went on to say:

"I am friends with and employ thousands of people of Mexican and Hispanic descent."

Tip for those accused of racism: avoid anything that resembles "some of my best friends are" rhetoric.

"...I feel justified in questioning whether I am receiving a fair trial. "

According to independent legal analysts, he's not justified at all.

"Throughout the litigation my attorneys have continually demonstrated that students who participated in Trump University were provided a substantive, valuable education...."

"Over a five-year period, more than 10,000 paying students filled out surveys giving the courses high marks and expressing their overwhelming satisfaction with Trump University's programs."

Actually, many of those students later said they were coerced into providing positive reviews, and according to the Associated Press, the plaintiff's lawyers in the civil suit claimed that the surveys "took places before students had experienced the full program and were not anonymous."

"[Q]uestions were raised regarding the Obama appointed Judge's impartiality. It is a fair question."

That's a great passive-voice phrase, but who was it, exactly, who raised the questions? I believe that was Donald Trump -- the one who's now describing his own accusations as "fair."

"I do not intend to comment on this matter any further."

After months of ugly attacks against a judge who's done nothing wrong and can't defend himself, Trump has decided to move on? I'm skeptical that'll last, but either way, it's a little late for restraint.
The statement included no apology or expression of regret. On the contrary, Trump's written clarification suggests everyone else is to blame: people "misconstrued" his otherwise clear sentiments, which he believes are perfectly "fair" and "justified."
As for his ostensible allies, many prominent Republicans have been publicly critical of Trump's overt racism, but the GOP candidate held a conference call this week in which he urged supporters to lash out at his critics, suggesting they're the real racists, not him.
Some took the suggestion to heart. On CNN yesterday, Trump surrogate Jeffrey Lord suggested House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is a racist, and around the same time, Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) defended Trump by saying President Obama might be a racist, too.
Later, the New York congressman said, "I apologize to anyone who interpreted my comments as calling the president a racist." For the record, Zeldin's exact words were, "You can easily argue that the president of the United States is a racist with his policies and his rhetoric."
This isn't going away.