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Story highlights

Trump on Tuesday defended calling former Miss Universe Alicia Machado "Miss Piggy" back in the 1990s

House Republicans gave Trump mixed reviews

(CNN) —  

House Speaker Paul Ryan dodged Tuesday when asked about Donald Trump’s criticism of a former Miss Universe, trying instead to put the focus on Hillary Clinton following the first presidential debate.

Trump on Fox News Tuesday defended making critical remarks about former Miss Universe Alicia Machado’s weight gain back in the 1990s. The Republican nominee said she had “gained a massive amount of weight and it was a real problem.”

Ryan, who has been critical of Trump’s comments in the past, did not bite on this one, however.

“I’m not going to get into the who said what this morning on a talk show because I didn’t see it,” Ryan said.

“I think this debate, I think people, met their expectations, and I think Hillary gave a very polished, well-rehearsed status quo defense and I think Donald Trump gave a unique Donald Trump response to the status quo,” Ryan added.

But gleeful Democrats, clearly happy with Monday night’s outcome, latched on to Trump’s Machado comments.

“He’s just repulsive. I mean, he really has no filter, he has no comprehension. He engages in rhetoric that is insulting to women. He doubled down this morning,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the former Democratic National Committee chairwoman. “Someone needs to remind him that it’s the 21st century and we’ve evolved long past it’s what women’s looks and women’s substance that matters. And we’re about to elect the first woman president, so we’ll show it to him that way.”

House Republicans, whose own fortunes could depend on how well Trump does on Election Day, gave him mixed reviews.

Rep. Mark Sanford of South Carolina said there was a “sophomoric element” to Trump’s repeated interruptions of Clinton onstage. Rep. Charlie Dent, one of a handful of remaining moderate Republicans, was critical of Trump’s bragging about not paying taxes.

But Rep. Tom Cole, a close ally of Ryan’s, said Trump merely needed to clear the bar for looking presidential.

“I think actually Trump had a pretty good night,” Cole said. “Neither one of them landed a knockout punch, but I think he needed to pass the bar to be presidential. And I think he did.”