Hispanic Republicans are speaking up and asking the party's leadership for action after GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump characterized Mexican immigrants as "rapists."
"The time has come for the [GOP presidential] candidates to distance themselves from Trump and call his comments what they are: ludicrous, baseless, and insulting," Alfonso Aguilar, a Republican who leads the American Principles Project's Latino Partnership, told the Associated Press.
Trump entered the Republican presidential field in June with a speech that was widely considered offensive, in which he claimed Mexican immigrants are "bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people."
Aguilar told the AP that such statements are damaging to the GOP. "Sadly, it hurts the party with Hispanic voters," he said. "It's a level of idiocy I haven't seen in a long time."
So far, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who is Hispanic, is the presidential hopeful who has issued the harshest criticism of Trump, calling his statements "not just offensive and inaccurate, but also divisive." Rubio weighed in on Trump's speech two weeks after the inflammatory comments were made.
On the other hand, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, also Hispanic, called Trump "terrific," saying he "speaks the truth." Iowa Republican Congressmen Steve King also backed up Trump, telling CNN, "I appreciate the scrappiness of him."
Reverend Gabriel Salguero, the head of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, told the AP he is closely monitoring how GOP presidential hopefuls respond to Trump's "xenophobic rhetoric."
"We're listening very, very closely, not just what candidates say but what they don't say — the sins of commission and the sins of omission," he said.
Republican 2016 frontrunner Jeb Bush has expressed disagreement with Trump's comments and called them "wrong," but refrained from elaborating. "Maybe we'll have a chance to have an honest discussion about it on stage," he told reporters, referencing the upcoming presidential debates.
Media outlets have been quick to distance themselves from Trump. Shortly after his speech, Univision, the largest Spanish-language broadcaster in the US, and NBC both announced they will no longer do business with the reality-star turned political hopeful. And on Wednesday, Macy's, which sells Trump's menswear line, announced it is cutting ties with the mogul.
On Tuesday, Trump announced he is planning to sue Univision for $500 million after the network decided it would no longer air his Miss Universe and Miss USA pageants.
On Thursday, Trump tried to walk back his comments, but he did not apologize for them. "My statements have been contorted to seem racist and discriminatory," he wrote in a message to supporters. "What I want is for legal immigrants to not be unfairly punished because others are coming into America illegally, flooding the labor market, and not paying taxes."
The Associated Press contributed to this report