Paul Ryan gets constituent pushback over 'inner city' comments
March 20th, 2014
05:12 PM ET
9 months ago

Paul Ryan gets constituent pushback over 'inner city' comments

(CNN) – Rep. Paul Ryan's recent comments about men in inner cities not valuing the “culture of work” have continued to draw outrage - this time from one of his Wisconsin constituents.

At town-hall style meeting on Wednesday, an African-American man identified by NBC as Alfonso Gardner took the Republican congressman to task for his remarks.

"The bottom line is this: your statement wasn't true. That's a code word for 'black,'" Gardner said to Ryan.

Ryan immediately pushed back, saying, "There was nothing whatsoever about race in my comments at all. It had nothing to do with race."

In radio interview last week, Ryan told conservative host Bill Bennett that 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.”

Ryan's controversial statement sparked heated opposition from other lawmakers in Washington. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-California, called the remarks "a thinly veiled racial attack."

Following the congressional uproar, Ryan sought to clarify his comments. He called his words "inarticulate" and insisted he was not singling out a specific race but rather "society as a whole."

Ryan agreed to meet with the Congressional Black Caucus after its members deemed his remarks "highly offensive".

But Gardner didn't buy Ryan's clarification.

"You said what you meant," the Wisconsinite said. "There are people in the inner-city who are white, Hispanic, who are Armenians, Danish - all types."

"And everybody works," he continued. “You got here in a car or a truck or something. Somebody from the inner city helped make that."

"This is not a race thing. It's just a poor thing. Poverty knows no racial boundaries," Ryan responded, underscoring his belief that America's social welfare programs needs to be rethought.

Ryan, the Budget Committee chairman and 2012 GOP vice presidential nominee, is considering launching a bid for the White House in 2016. Over the last year and a half he has become more deeply involved in the issue of poverty, releasing a report earlier this month on the inefficiency of federal welfare programs.

The heated exchange between Ryan and his constituent came during one of the congressman's listening and learning tours of low-income neighborhoods.

Some of the issues Ryan has discussed in his push against poverty overlap with those of President Barack Obama's initiative "My Brother's Keeper,” which is aimed at helping minority young men and boys.

"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," the President said at an announcement ceremony for the program last month. "But you've got responsibilities too."

CNN's Leigh Ann Caldwell contributed to this report.


Filed under: Paul Ryan • Uncategorized
soundoff (36 Responses)
  1. The Republican Party Is Dead To Me

    Why can't he get it through his thick skull. He's not now V.P., and he'll never be POTUS. It just ain't a gonna happen.

    March 20, 2014 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  2. J Harris

    Paul Ryan is right poverty or being poor isn't race thing. Instead of talking about the inner city poor what about the rural whites who are poor and still vote Republican especially in the deep South. How about policies that keep poor people poor even though these poor people work Mr. Ryan.

    March 20, 2014 10:36 pm at 10:36 pm |
  3. Randy, San Francisco

    It is extremely disturbing that these type of verbal gaffes come out so easily from so many Republican politicians. Rep Ryan and his fellow Republicans have to do some soul searching before reaching out to minorities.

    March 20, 2014 11:13 pm at 11:13 pm |
  4. Pete McAlpine

    The DEM(agogues) have been trying and failing to help the DIRE situation in America's inner cities for decades. So, now we are supposed to pretend there are no problems in the predominately Black inner cities? Cancel all the programs. Clearly, Paul Ryan was just trying to propose solutions, somewhat different ones than what DEMs favor.

    March 21, 2014 12:58 am at 12:58 am |
  5. Anthony Ciora

    Ryan shouldn't apologize, because no apology is warranted. He was 100% correct and the truth is often hard for liberals to hear.

    March 21, 2014 01:01 am at 1:01 am |
  6. Name Uche Agonsi

    Ryan's inner cities comments sound like an extract from Eddy Murphy's movie "Trading Places" . How on earth could US voters ever be made to believe in the political rantings of these apostles of trickle down economists who not only dont like anything to trickle down but want to crucify anybody that makes something to trickle down. Like in the case of "Trading Place". i challenge Ryan to provide the members of this inner cities the opportunities you provide the rich and watch the result.

    March 21, 2014 01:41 am at 1:41 am |
  7. Ali

    GOP/Tea Party..the minds that brought you Nixon,Bush,Putin lover Palin and Fox Channel. The lucky few will vote for these fellas:) (get it? Lucky few:))

    March 21, 2014 04:30 am at 4:30 am |
  8. NATHAN WIMBERLY

    Keep live mikes in Guns Over People tea potty bumpkin wingnut faces right up until November 4. They are gifts that keep giving to Democrats.

    March 21, 2014 05:44 am at 5:44 am |
  9. @RI_Roger

    Why isn't the President's "My Brothers Keeper" initiative deemed a racist program? Is it because the President is part black and that makes it OK. Next we'll be OK with the President and the first family using the "N-word" to make their case for what ever they'd like..... Liberal, Progressive hypocrites at its worst. My bet, the person at the Ryan town hall is a plant.

    March 21, 2014 06:34 am at 6:34 am |
  10. sharkusg

    Like it not, he's right and we all know it.

    March 21, 2014 07:06 am at 7:06 am |
  11. Chewy

    These people profess to be passionate enemies of racism; they in fact perpetuate racism by injecting it where it does not otherwise exist.

    March 21, 2014 07:20 am at 7:20 am |
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