WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid on Thursday accused the House and Senate Republican leadership of "moral cowardice" for failing to stand up to GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump.
In a speech on GOP policies and Trump's success, the Nevada Democrat said House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., have tried to have it both ways. They intend to support the eventual nominee, Reid said, but assail Trump for his call to bar Muslims from the United States and his slow disavowal of support from white supremacist groups.
"Giving Trump a slap on the wrist each time he says something detestable, but always committing to support him at the end of the day," Reid said in a speech at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. "This is precisely the kind of moral cowardice that enabled the rise of Trump."
Reid offered a scathing critique of Trump, from the candidate's embrace of the widely debunked notion that President Barack Obama is not American-born to his bombastic campaign comments.
"Trump has made disgusting, sexist statements," Reid said. "He has insulted veterans, immigrants and people with disabilities. Americans are being assaulted and taunted with racial slurs at Trump's rallies. Violence is being threatened and committed against African-Americans with disturbing regularity. And Trump encourages it all.
"There is no gray area here. It is time for Sen. McConnell and Speaker Ryan to find the backbone to say: 'Enough!'" the Democrat said.
Neither Ryan nor McConnell's office responded specifically to Reid's criticism.
Ryan's office highlighted the congressman's comments from earlier in the day in which he said, "It isn't my place to say who our nominee is or what," but promised to speak out to defend conservative principles.
McConnell repeatedly has said he will stay out of the primaries.
Reid argued that Republicans' steadfast opposition to all of Obama's policies helped perpetuate a "big lie" that the rank and file embraced — that whatever Obama proposed, including even a GOP idea, would be no help to Republicans.