WASHINGTON • US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has offered a message of ethnic harmony at a Christian evangelical conference, seeking to calm concern about his criticism of a Mexican- American judge.
In a departure from his usual freewheeling style, Mr Trump read a carefully scripted speech from a teleprompter last Friday as part of a new push by his campaign to tone down the outspoken billionaire's harsh rhetoric.
Mr Trump's remarks included a wide-ranging attack on his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, and he said money aimed at resettling Syrian refugees should instead be spent on tackling poverty in US cities.
Speaking at the annual conference of the conservative Faith & Freedom Coalition, Mr Trump did not mention the controversy over his earlier charge that Mr Gonzalo Curiel, the federal judge hearing a class-action lawsuit against Trump University, cannot treat him fairly because of his Mexican heritage.
But Mr Trump did make a point of saying he would represent all Americans if elected president on Nov 8.
CALL FOR UNITY
Freedom of any kind means no one should be judged by their race or their colour and the tone of his hue... Right now, we have a very divided nation. We are going to bring our nation together.
MR DONALD TRUMP, reading a carefully scripted speech from a teleprompter at a Christian evangelical conference.
"Freedom of any kind means no one should be judged by their race or their colour and the tone of his hue," Mr Trump said. "Right now, we have a very divided nation. We are going to bring our nation together."
As Mr Trump sought to rally more Republicans behind him, Mrs Clinton met Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts to try and shore up support from the left wing of the Democratic Party.
Mrs Clinton later addressed the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the non-partisan arm of the women's health group, and had Mr Trump trained in her sights.
"This is a man who has called women pigs, dogs and disgusting animals, it's kind of hard to imagine counting on him to respect our fundamental rights," she said.
Mrs Clinton leads Mr Trump by 11 percentage points, nearly the same as a week ago, according to a poll by Reuters/Ipsos just out.
Mr Trump on Friday criticised Mrs Clinton's willingness to accept thousands of Syrian refugees into the US and challenged her to "replace her support for increased refugee admission" in favour of a new job programme for inner cities.
He stopped short of repeating his call for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the country, a proposal that has drawn heavy fire from Republicans and Democrats.
The tycoon's struggle to unify Republicans behind his insurgent candidacy was apparent at the faith conference, where some speakers studiously avoided mentioning his name. But conference organiser Ralph Reed was adamant in his support for Mr Trump, saying the New Yorker has energised the evangelical vote in a way that past Republican presidential nominees failed to do.
"We understand that perfection is not the measure that should be applied," Mr Reed told the crowd.