Monday on Fox News Channel’s “The O’Reilly Factor,” host Bill O’Reilly weighed in on the controversy brewing around presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s comments about U.S. Federal Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel, the judge presiding over the lawsuits involving Trump University.
Although Trump has faced considerable backlash for his remarks suggesting a bias from Curiel due to his ethnicity, O’Reilly insisted Curiel should recuse himself from the case so that any future judgment is not clouded by the controversy.
Transcript as follows:
O’REILLY: No matter what happens in the Trump University civil litigation, it will not likely have much effect on the election. Voters have more important things to consider than the disenchantment of some Trump U. clients. But the situation has put Mr. Trump on the defensive.
No question there is a political component to the legal action, as the law firm behind the class-action lawsuits often helps the Democratic Party. In fact, the firm has paid Bill and Hillary Clinton a combined $675,000 for speeches since 2009 according to the website Lawnewz.com. That makes the legal action look like a political hit job, as it is likely the law firm is working on contingency.
Mr. Trump is correct to be indignant and defend himself vigorously. But part of that defense included a negative personal assessment of the judge in the case, a Mexican-American named Gonzalo Curiel:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: “He is a Mexican. We’re building a wall between here and Mexico. The answer is he is giving us very unfair rulings — rulings that people can’t even believe.”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O’REILLY: Immediately an outcry arose and not only by Trump critics.
Yesterday Newt Gingrich, who supports Trump, said the candidate was wrong to spotlight the judge’s heritage:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GINGRICH: This is one of the worst mistakes Trump has made and I think it’s inexcusable. He has every right to criticize a judge and he has every right to say certain decisions aren’t right and his attorneys can file to move the venue from the judge. If a liberal were to attack Justice Clarence Thomas on the grounds that he’s black, we would all go crazy. Every conservative would say it was wrong and it was racism.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Although appointed by Barack Obama, Judge Curiel is no raging liberal. In fact, he’s a tough guy. At one point, a Mexican drug cartel threatened to assassinate him because of his anti-drug trafficking stance. However, the judge belongs to a group called San Diego La Raza Lawyers Association, which does advocacy work on behalf of Latinos.
It’s not associated with the radical La Raza group but confusion is understandable. Because of that, Mr. Trump believes the judge may be biased against him, as it is well known that the candidate has taken a strong stand against illegal immigration, including building a border wall.
Summing up, the Trump U. case is certainly political to some extent and a very high-profile situation. Because of that, Talking Points believes the judge should recuse himself not because he did anything wrong – he did not – but to eliminate any doubt as to motivation in rulings.
There are plenty of federal judges that could step in. It is valid that some may see any recusal as caving to intimidation, but stark justice at this level trumps (pardon the pun) any theoretical argument.
And that’s the memo.
Follow Jeff Poor on Twitter @jeff_poor