IN Focus: Trump doubles down on statements made about Hoosier judge

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - The judge being targeted by Donald Trump, Gonzalo Curiel, is a graduate from the IU Maurer School of Law. The school’s administration is firing back, defending Curiel’s reputation and credibility as not only a federal judge, but a Hoosier alum.

“I was certainly disheartened and in fact, quite outraged,” said Donna Nagy, the Executive Associate Dean at Maurer.

Nagy was quick to defend Curiel who she said was arguably one of the most notable IU law school alums.

“He has been a loyal, dedicated, interesting, and engaging alum of our school. We’re tremendously proud,” said Nagy.

Curiel is hearing lawsuits against Trump University. His credibility was called into question by Trump who claimed he’s unable to hear the case; biased because of his Mexican heritage.

“He’s of Mexican heritage, okay? I’m building a wall. I’m building a wall,” said Trump during an interview on CBS’ Face the Nation.

“Someone who aspires to be the U.S. President would call into question the integrity of a sitting federal judge, solely on the basis of that judge’s ethnicity,” said Nagy.

Curiel graduated from the IU Maurer School of Law in 1979. Of the School’s 11,000 alumni, Curiel is one of only 100 law school fellows. A title given in recognition of his achievements and contributions to the school, including the establishment of a scholarship in 1998 in honor of his brother.

Curiel returned to IU in 2014 to give the law school commencement address. What he told the graduating class then, taking on new meaning now.

“‘Build an excellent reputation and protect it each day of your life.’ He’s been doing that and he encouraged our students to do that and we’re tremendously proud,” said Nagy.

Law school staff are not the only ones coming to his defense. U.S. Senator Dan Coats tweeted Tuesday he felt Trump’s comments were “inappropriate.”

Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan weighed in as well, “Claiming a person can’t do their job because of their race is sort of the textbook definition of a racist comment,” he said during a press conference Tuesday.

Donald Trump sought Tuesday to quell the intensifying criticism overhis comments about the impartiality of a federal judge, saying his remarks had been “misconstrued.”

In a lengthy statement, Trump tried to explain his comments about federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is overseeing a lawsuit on Trump University. Trump, who had accused Curiel of bias because of his Mexican heritage, said in his statement that he does not believe “one’s heritage makes them incapable of being impartial.”

“Based on the rulings that I have received in the Trump University civil case, I feel justified in questioning whether I am receiving a fair trial,” Trump said.

Trump posted the statement on his Facebook page. It can be read below in its entirety.

Hoosier Democrats came out in support of a judge with Hoosier roots who’s come under attack from presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

The judge, Gonzalo Curiel, is overseeing a lawsuit against “Trump University.” Curiel has come under fire from Trump, who raised concerns about possible bias from the judge because of his Mexican heritage. Curiel was born in East Chicago, Ind., but his parents are from Mexico.

Trump, who has made comments critical of Mexicans and touted his plan to build a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border, said Curiel is upset with Trump’s policies toward Mexico and shouldn't oversee the Trump University case.

Indiana Democratic Party Chairman John Zody lashed out against Trump’s comments Monday morning, but he also criticized Indiana Republicans for failing to come to Curiel’s defense. While Trump has received some criticism from Republicans nationally, Zody said the Indiana contingent has remained quiet.

“We’re here to publicly call out the Indiana Republican Party and its candidates and elected officials for turning a blind eye and not sticking to the morals we know as Hoosiers,” Zody said. “We’re asking Republicans to put politics aside and join us in an effort to protect the well-being of Indiana and everyone who calls themselves a Hoosier by condemning these remarks against a Hoosier.”

Zody called Trump’s campaign “divisive and toxic.”

Former State Representative John Aguilera also discussed Trump’s calling.

“We’re here to talk about something personal for us as Hoosiers,” Aguilera said. “Case details aside, Trump used ‘Mexican’ as a derogatory term to describe Judge Curiel.”

Aguilera said Curiel is a longtime Hoosier who was born and raised in East Chicago. He pointed out that the judge attended Indiana University in Bloomington. Even after moving to California, Curiel has maintained his Hoosier ties, Aguilera said.

“With this kind of background, you can’t be any more of a Hoosier than that,” Aguilera told reporters Monday.

Aguilera said he had a personal interaction with Trump in the early 1990s when he was part of a minority investment group for a proposed casino in the Gary area. He and others were asked to drum up support for the proposal, which they did.

According to Aguilera, the Trump investment group didn’t come through on its promises to the investment group and they weren’t able to participate. They filed a lawsuit and settled the case out of court.

“Mr. Trump, you have again crossed the line. Gonzalo is a Hoosier, and we must work together to defend one of our own,” Aguilera said.

Zody called for Hoosier Republicans, naming Gov. Mike Pence and Rep. Todd Young and others, to condemn Trump’s remarks.

“Hoosier Republicans should be held accountable for their blind support of their presumptive nominee,” Zody. “We’re not really talking about politics. We’re talking about the Golden Rule and how we treat one another.”

“The silence is deafening, and it should be a wakeup call for Hoosiers,” Zody said. “We’re hearing nothing from our Hoosier elected officials.”