The Wisconsin businessman challenging House Speaker Paul Ryan in next week’s primary sharply criticised the speaker as a “soulless globalist,” but expressed scepticism that GOP nominee Donald Trump, who has spoken favourably of him, would come to his aid with an endorsement.
Paul Nehlen, who faces near-impossible odds of defeating Ryan in Tuesday’s race, railed against the speaker in a Tuesday night phone interview with Business Insider, characterising him as “the most open borders, anti-worker, pro-Wall Street member of Congress on either side.”
“Paul Ryan is a soulless globalist and he would send our jobs overseas in a heartbeat if it meant more money in his campaign coffers,” he said.
Nehlen chastised Ryan for weighing in on the debate centered around a Gold Star family, which has earned Trump widespread condemnation from both those within and outside the GOP.
“Why does he weigh in on issues that, on the negative side, every time with Mr. Trump?” Nehlen said. “He’s our nominee. He takes every opportunity to take a shot at Mr. Trump.”
“Mr. Trump said good things about our fallen hero, those Gold Star parents had the opportunity to take the stage and Mr. Trump thinks they squandered an opportunity,” he continued. “Speaker Ryan needs to focus on what he needs to focus on and stop taking every opportunity to take a shot at Mr. Trump. Speaker Ryan is about to lose his job, that’s what he needs to focus on.”
Nehlen’s remarks came after Trump praised him and, in an unprecedented move, abstained from endorsing Ryan’s reelection bid. Ryan is the highest-ranking elected Republican official in the country.
“Well, I don’t know if it will have any impact on my election,” Nehlen said. “I mean it’s flattering comments certainly.”
Nehlen said he’s “not looking for Mr. Trump to make an endorsement of me,” and added, “I actually doubt that he would.”
“You know, Ronald Reagan’s 11th commandment,” he cited, which is that thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.
He said that he thought Trump “was just being a decent human being” for thanking him.
“I wrote an article and he thanked me for it and I said of course,” he explained. “The real story here is that Paul Ryan’s comments are beneath the dignity of the speaker, and this whole thing isn’t about Mr. Trump and it isn’t about me, it’s about Paul Ryan and his policies.”
Nehlen said Ryan hasn’t been loyal to Trump “by any stretch of the imagination” while Trump has remained “quiet about this race” and was “loyal to the speaker.”
“But I think he’s fed up,” he said. “I don’t know, you’d have to ask those guys.”
Ryan’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.
On Tuesday, Trump said he was “not quite” ready to endorse Ryan.
“I like Paul, but these are horrible times for our country,” Trump said in an interview with The Washington Post. “We need very strong leadership. We need very, very strong leadership. And I’m just not quite there yet. I’m not quite there yet.”
The phrasing used by Trump was similar to what Ryan said when he initially declined to endorse the Manhattan billionaire shortly after Trump secured the GOP nomination in May. At the time, Ryan told CNN that he was “just not ready to [endorse] at this point.”
“I’m not there right now,” he told CNN host Jake Tapper.
Ryan would endorse Trump in June. He also spoke at the GOP convention last month as a sign of party unity between the two leaders.
The move came just one day after Trump offered praise to Nehlen on Twitter for defending him online in a controversy regarding Trump’s criticism aimed at a Gold Star family. Ryan had released a strongly-worded statement over the weekend that again rejected Trump’s past plan to indefinitely bar all Muslims from entering the country after the real estate magnate retaliated against Ghazala and Khizr Khan, the Gold Star parents who denounced him during a speech at the Democratic National Convention last week.
Trump told The Post that Nehlen, who has been reliably pro-Trump, was running “a very good campaign” but also said he didn’t offer his support, merely thanking him for “sending their love.”
“[Nehlen] is a big fan of what I’m saying — big fan,” Trump told The Post. “His opponent, who’s running a very good campaign, obviously, I’ve heard — his opponent sent me a very scholarly and well thought out letter yesterday and all I did was say thank you very much for your very nice letter. You saw my statement.”
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.