Will Haslam endorse Trump?

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam

NASHVILLE - Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, who at times has been critical of presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, joined five other Republican governors Tuesday to meet with him in New York.

There was no immediate announcement of a Haslam endorsement of Trump.

"Gov. Haslam joined several other governors in New York [Tuesday] to meet with Mr. Trump and discuss state and federal issues," Haslam Press Secretary Jennifer Donnals said in a statement, later declining to elaborate.

Haslam, a former chairman of the Republican Governors Association, endorsed U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida in Tennessee's March 1 GOP primary.

He has yet to endorse Trump, billionaire and former TV reality star. But the governor has also said in the past he did want to have a meeting with Trump to discuss state and federal relationships in areas like health care as well as other matters.

That happened in the expected nominee's self-named Trump Tower in Manhattan.

Haslam has been critical or voiced concerns about some of Trump's more controversial statements on several occasions.

Just last week, he did so again, describing as "indefensible" comments Trump made regarding Gonzalo Curiel, the federal judge presiding over a case involving Trump University.

Trump said Curiel had a conflict of interest because of his "Mexican heritage." The candidate, who has pledged to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border and made critical comments about Mexicans illegally entering the country, said because Curiel, who is U.S.-born, was "very pro-Mexico," he couldn't be impartial.

Haslam told The Tennessean that "to say that because of someone's heritage or their ethnicity that they are unable to provide fair judgment is just wrong. It's just not how the judicial system works in our country and not how it ever can work."

Trump has walked back his statement, saying, "I do not feel that one's heritage makes them incapable of being impartial."

After Trump became Republicans' presumptive nominee in May, Haslam was asked about the candidate's remarks about minorities including Mexicans and Muslims.

"I do think words matter, and that's one of the conversations we will have," Haslam said.

Haslam was put on the spot yet again earlier this month after Trump sharply criticized New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, the current Republican Governors Association chairman, who wasn't endorsing him.

"At the end of the day, I don't think that's helpful," Haslam said. But he said he still hoped to have "productive conversations" with Trump.

Contact Andy Sher at asher@ timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550. Follow on Twitter @AndySher1.