March 13th, 2014
10:00 AM ET
9 months ago

Ryan's 'inner city' comments sparking backlash

Washington (CNN) - Rep. Paul Ryan said comments he made on a conservative radio program about people in inner cities not valuing the “culture of work” were “inarticulate.”

“I was not implicating the culture of one community-but of society as a whole,” Ryan said in a statement after fellow members of Congress pounced on his comments as being offensive and tinged with racism.

“The broader point I was trying to make is that we cannot settle for this status quo and that government and families have to do more and rethink our approach to fighting poverty,” Ryan said Thursday morning, one day after he made his controversial statements.

On Bill Bennett’s Morning in America program Wednesday, Ryan, who has become involved in the issue of poverty over the last year and a half, told Bennett there is a “tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work.”

“So there’s a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with,” added the House Budget Committee chairman and 2012 GOP vice presidential nominee.

In the radio interview, Ryan also referenced conservative author, American Enterprise Institute scholar, and self-described “right-wing ideologue,” Charles Murray, who wrote the controversial book “The Bell Curve,” which claims that black people have inferior intelligence and is the reason for social disadvantages.

“Your buddy Charles Murray or Bob Putnam over at Harvard – those guys have written books on this, which is – we have got this tailspin of culture,” Ryan said.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s office sent out an alert to reporters, calling his statements “shameful and wrong.”

Representative Barbara Lee of California took offense to Ryan’s statement. She put out a news release that said, “My colleague Congressman Ryan’s comments about ‘inner city’ poverty are a thinly veiled racial attack and cannot be tolerated. Let’s be clear, when Mr. Ryan says ‘inner city,’ when he says, ‘culture,’ these are simply code words for what he really means: ‘black.’”

“Mr. Ryan should step up and produce some legitimate proposals on how to tackle poverty and racial discrimination in America,” Lee added.

Ryan called Lee, also a member of the Budget Committee, Wednesday to discuss the issue.

Ryan’s remarks come a week after he released a report on poverty , where he analyzed 92 federal anti-poverty programs, concluding that are a confusing patchwork of often ineffective prescriptions to combating policy.

On Bennett’s radio program, Ryan, who's considering a bid for the 2016 GOP nomination, said beating poverty is not the job of government and called on people “to get involved” through non-profits or religious charities.

Ryan has embarked on a series of listening and learning tours of inner city poverty with Bob Woodson, the head of the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, an organization that works with people on the outskirts of society.

Woodson, who is a former scholar at AEI, said Paul needs to stop listening to conservative scholars on the issue of poverty because their rhetoric “seeps into his speeches.”

“The only thing they are passionate about is the failures of the poor,” Woodson said, adding that Ryan should instead tell the stories of the people he’s met in the past year.

In Ryan's Wednesday radio interview, he discussed some of the same issues that President Barack Obama brought up late last month at an event at the White House,  where he announced "My Brother's Keeper" , a new initiative to help minority young men and boys succeed.

"No excuses. Government, and private sector, and philanthropy, and all the faith communities, we all have a responsibility to help provide you the tools you need. We've got to help you knock down some of the barriers that you experience," the President said. "But you've got responsibilities too."


Filed under: Paul Ryan
soundoff (371 Responses)
  1. Jimmy H.

    This is news? The TeaPublicans have always been this way–veiled racism.

    March 13, 2014 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  2. taxedmore

    "brother's keeper" – do you mean to those who made the decision to drop out of high school and cannot get a decent job? Those who decided to do drugs, alcohol and ended up frying their brains? Those who decided to have kids knowing that they could not afford them yet? You obviously feel the need to pay for every stupid irresponsible decision that anybody makes – please feel free to do it with your earnings.

    March 13, 2014 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  3. Tara

    @GreyMan, you need to look behind the numbers, like, average amount of time on welfare and amount being collected. That is where the real answers lay.

    March 13, 2014 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  4. John Illinois

    GreyMan – You need to learn statistics......What are the percentages of people of each race on welfare, that is where you get the true picture.

    March 13, 2014 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  5. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Lynda Minnesota and Wake Up!
    Excellent points.
    My (ex) father-in-law became a surgeon back in the mid-40's.
    He used to recall how even amongst his professional peers comments abounded about whether or not Black doctors were on par (intellectually) with White doctors.
    He said that the old adage back then about "having to be twice as good" still applies today, they are just not as in-your-face about expressing their beliefs today.
    The more things change....

    March 13, 2014 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  6. Xn

    He's not making this stuff up but there are plenty of white trash people in the sticks who do the same thing- live off govt gravy train.

    March 13, 2014 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  7. Bob

    Go ahead vote GOP you will get more of less while the rich get just plain more.

    March 13, 2014 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  8. Furball

    What nonsense is this? In many major cities (philadelphia, DC and NYC) to name some, the inner city is the commerce hub. People clamor to get jobs there and it's fiercely competitive. You don't get that way without having a strong (and often times over-the-top) work ethic

    March 13, 2014 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  9. Tara

    @Livingston, his father at least worked and contributed to Social Security first before dying.

    March 13, 2014 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  10. The Real Tom Paine

    -John Illinois

    Get serious and quit denying reality liberals! There has been Trillions of dollars poured into the the so-called "inner cities" and it has basically all been a waste of our money! Many of them refuse to work, crime rates are higher than every other area and they think someone owes them something; no one owes them anything! I would say that IS a culture problem. They also need to learn to behave and follow the law!
    **************
    So conservatives bear no responsibility at all? Typical, pointing the finger of blame, but unwilling to admit they have failed as well.

    March 13, 2014 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  11. chaing

    The conservative right and middle are lining up for another repeat performance as last election. Nothing has changed and never will in an honest way. That's who they are and how they think. If you want progress not a return to gop failed policies and attitudes vote intelligently, stay away from the conservative right and gop next election!!

    March 13, 2014 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  12. tessa

    Ryan didnt state it was about race he said its an inner city "culture" problem. If the family and surrounding environment breeds handouts and welfare....well that is all one learns. You are what you hang around. Proverty breeds proverty and ignorance breeds ignorance unless one is determined enough to walk away from it or there is a system in place to help them suceed. If the statistics show an inner city number is more white, black, or hispanic etc. What is being said is this group needs more education in rising above their own helplessness....has nothing to do with race. The problem in this country is everyone wants to make everything a racial argument instead of just looking at the facts and solving the problems.

    March 13, 2014 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  13. bcrunner

    When Ryan's Dad died, his mother received SS benefits for him until he was 18. He grew up in a middle class family and all his life he has been supported by the government. Then he turns around and rails against other people receiving assistance from the government... go figure. And, I agree with Lynn above! Any initiative that might help the people come out of poverty, he is against. But, God forbid if we take corporate welfare away from his benefactors who make gazillions...

    March 13, 2014 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  14. alan

    Oh boo hoo, gotcha moment.

    March 13, 2014 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  15. DC Johnny

    @Greyman

    Try again, moron. Blacks are twice as likely to be on welfare as whites. You either ignorantly forget to adjust for the larger white population as a whole, or you seek to intentionally mislead us with phony facts, a la President Obama.

    Which is it? Ignorant, or evil?

    -----

    Going strictly by the numbers, there are more white people on welfare than black people.

    March 13, 2014 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  16. TomGI

    Ryan could never get elected president. But he might get appointed president by the Bohemian Grove 'Old Guard'.

    March 13, 2014 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  17. ChiliJ

    The truth hurts doesn't it

    March 13, 2014 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  18. Martin

    I see, Paul Ryan wants to get back on the same soap box as Bush I and his "thousands points of light" BS. Yeah, sure, private charity will solve all our problems. And instead of paying taxes folks will reduce their taxes by deducting their contributions. Got it! Great plan. So original. So compassionate. Such horse manure!

    March 13, 2014 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  19. yolanda

    @Real , please pass that "stream to fish in " message along to Mayor De Blasio. He seems intent on killing charter schools, which have done a remarkable job of helping many underprivileged kids out of the 'hood. So much for his "progressive" agenda. he owes his soul to the teachers' union.

    March 13, 2014 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  20. ChrisWarren

    White male politicians can no longer win, because of the race or sex card. Lets use this as an example...a white politician has a good debate with a person of color or woman on the other side with opposing views, and the debate gets intense and tough issues or questions are brought up. What happens? The next morning media and people slam the white politician for being racist or sexist. This double standard is so sickening. If you call someone a racist, have solid facts that they did or performed something that actually was racist. How should a white politician address issues with black people? If someone says blacks, he is racist, if someone says inner city, he is racist. Tell me, how does the white male politician win when dealing with culture issues?

    March 13, 2014 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  21. The Real Tom Paine

    -taxedmore

    "brother's keeper" – do you mean to those who made the decision to drop out of high school and cannot get a decent job? Those who decided to do drugs, alcohol and ended up frying their brains? Those who decided to have kids knowing that they could not afford them yet? You obviously feel the need to pay for every stupid irresponsible decision that anybody makes – please feel free to do it with your earnings.
    ********************
    I guess you just gave us permission to ignore you when you are in a crisis: can I step over your body as you lie gasping for air?

    March 13, 2014 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  22. cedar rapids

    'Ryan, who's considering a bid for the 2016 GOP nomination, said beating poverty is not the job of government'

    Well actually as the government is there to represent ALL the citizens of a nation and its in the nation's best interests to reduce poverty as much as possible then yes, government should have a job at beating poverty.

    March 13, 2014 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  23. Saboth

    Since there are far more white people on welfare in red states than black people in "inner cities", maybe he should change his source of information. Also, I know Repubs are only for corporate welfare, but you can't crash the economy and drive people out of work with your poor leadership under GW Bush then when those people want assistance, tell them to stop being lazy.

    March 13, 2014 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  24. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    @ Lynda Minnesota
    Hello there!
    Hope you had a chance to read my thank you post yesterday.
    But if you did not: my sincerest thanks my friend.

    March 13, 2014 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  25. Sam

    Barbara Lee of California, find something to fight about. Since the liberals don't have anything to ping against Republicans, she attacks a perfectly put statement.

    March 13, 2014 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
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