Paul Ryan gets constituent pushback over 'inner city' comments
March 20th, 2014
05:12 PM ET
4 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. Anonymous

    There is something terribly wrong with this man called Paul Ryan. Lost soul? Lost compassion? He is cold. Completely and utterly cold. He blames and he points fingers. But never, ever, does he show any compassion of any kind for those millions of folks who never had nor will ever have the well greased governmental perks he's received throughout his life. Paul Ryan didn't build our government, and he sure as hell doesn't own it. Our government is of the people, by the people, for the people.

    March 20, 2014 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  2. Gurgyl

    I do not know as to who is voting this idiot, very pathetic idiot. Drive all republican idiots out in next election. God bless!!

    March 20, 2014 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  3. carlos

    I guess that re-branding thing is really working.

    March 20, 2014 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  4. Boomer in Mo

    I was raised in a racist household, with racist relatives all around. They knew they were racists and were proud of it. Now, racists are careless about it. They do not recognize their own bigotry. Paul Ryan does not recognize the racist rhetoric of some in the GOP and in some GOP policies because of the code words used. A lot of Americans are like that, both Democrats and Republicans. But the Republicans seem to be much worse and they also tend not to look into their own souls too deeply to discover their own flaws.

    March 20, 2014 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  5. Chris-E...al

    Apparently the Dems are going to use the race card woman game for years now till the election is over and then go back to the same old very l0w down sorry do nothing policies that unfortunately accomplishes N0THING for neither group ! I dont no how they sleep in that nice warm bed we pay for at night !

    March 20, 2014 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  6. Rick McDaniel

    Ryan was telling the truth............but people don't like hearing the TRUTH!

    March 20, 2014 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  7. Gary

    Keep talking hate and stupidity and you are sure to become the Republican presidential nominee.

    March 20, 2014 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  8. GOP = Greed Over People

    Keep that "outreach" program to minorities chugging right along, and who better than Lyin' Ryan, to hold the banner of "Mission Accomplished" high!

    March 20, 2014 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  9. GOP = Greed Over People

    If "inner city" is not a racist dog whistle, then why was the white exodus to the suburbs, called "white flight"?

    March 20, 2014 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  10. Silence DoGood

    The best spokesperson for liberals and progressives is a loud mouth Right Winger with no filter.

    March 20, 2014 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  11. Mr. Jeff O'Dette

    Only 1 thing to do. VOTE HIM OUT!!!

    March 20, 2014 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  12. don in albuquerque

    Only one way to end this kind of idiocy. Dems get out and VOTE.

    March 20, 2014 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  13. Wake up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    Here's a little tidbit of information for you and your ilk Ryan. We are very much aware of your little buzz words and code words. We're nowhere near as dumb as you think we are. Which is why President Obama has been running circles around you guys for 5 years. You underestimated him just as you have the rest of us. All the GOP is good for is hate, divisiveness and a false superiority complex.

    March 20, 2014 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  14. rs

    Ryan is the face of the compassionless Right. There should always be pushback against such overt racism and classism.

    March 20, 2014 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  15. Marie MD

    These fools really don't know any better because I can't believe they can be that stupid!
    Every time they open their mouths they insult women, the poor, seniors, veterans you name it. If it's not the 1% who are rich they have no clue.
    This is the same man whose family was helped by the federal government when his father died.

    March 20, 2014 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  16. Tampa Tim

    For a lazy person who has spent his entire life on government welfare, Ryan sure is good at projection. Paul Ryan/Charles Murray 2016.

    March 20, 2014 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  17. Name jk. Sfl. GOP CRUZ LEE ISSA RUBIO GOP conservatives the GARBAGE AND SEWAGE of AMERICA what have they accomplished in the lat five years??? They lost at least 50BILLIN DOLLARS and got nothing for it just this year.

    This, from a former hotdod car driver. The GOP has no more credibility left on ANY issue especially healthcare, BUT the oil companies and the croch brothers probably NEED ANOTHER tax break, your going to LOSE BIG in November GOP CLOWNS!!!!!!

    March 20, 2014 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  18. vigilantunderwood

    Go back to that famous town hall debate in 1992 – when George HW Bush lost his bid for the WH – Question: "How has the national debt personally affected each of your lives?" Answer from Bush: "Can you repeat the question?" Clinton gave a clear, concise answer that riveted the nation to his side. It'll be the same thing in 2014. For instance, Obamacare – ACA is starting to turn some serious numbers. Now it looks like they'll make their projected signup goal for March. Moreover, people are already starting to see personal positive effects – in terms of access to care and services they never had before. And these are working class people – hard working folks who don't have the comfortable living that many politicians enjoy. In the meantime, the GOP/TP is blind-crazy – they'll do anything and say anything to win political points. As a result, they'll miss one opportunity after another to really connect with people. They'll say things and do things that make the rest of us reject their platform. Ryan is proof of this situation. I don't want a Demo supermajority in Congress – but if the GOP/TP keeps it up, that's exactly what we'll have.

    March 20, 2014 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  19. They ought to change from the elephant to the hippo...

    You need to stop embarrassing yourself and your state, Paul...

    March 20, 2014 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  20. abc

    Liberal race baiting at it's best. The inner city I live in is hispanic, asian, white, and oh yeah, black. Liberals scream that no one cares about the inner city. I always though they meant everyone in the inner city. How do we address the issues of the inner city, without saying inner city? Ryan's comments had nothing to do with race, you thin skinned liberals. The only reason you think a term like "inner city" is code for black, is because the Liberal Congressional Black Caucaus told you to think that way. They're using race baiting to play politics and you sheeple are pathetic.

    March 20, 2014 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  21. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    This bum's family got wealthy doing construction work using GOVERNMENT CONTRACTS! But he is against "big government" or spending tax payers money to help the poor. He will give tax breaks to the monsters who pull his strings though. And this is the guy Mitt chose as his running mate!

    March 20, 2014 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  22. Rusty Krus

    Little Eddie Munster didn't expect the liberals to actually fight back.

    March 20, 2014 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  23. alex

    Whatever. Every conservative that was listening to that show know he was taking a swipe at minorities. It was totally a code word for that audience. You know every man listening to that show imagined the same face in their head when he said "inner city".

    March 20, 2014 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  24. 2L

    Of course he didn't say it – he implied it

    March 20, 2014 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
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