March 13th, 2014
10:00 AM ET
7 years 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.

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“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. baptist_deacon

    Conservatives don't use "code", so people should stop accusing them of their use. Just because Progressives use "code" doesn't mean everybody does.

    My opinion, the sick culture in the inner cities actually CAUSES low intelegence. I think if you took a baby born in the inner city and had him raised by suburbanites, the baby would grow up with a much higher IQ.

    March 13, 2014 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  2. kiddingme

    I don't always agree with him, but he's on the mark this time. There is always some "offended outcry" against anyone who speaks truth with facts.

    March 13, 2014 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  3. S.B. Stein

    So, he pointed out there are some areas of the "inner city" that are bad. My question is what is he going to do about it? Is he going to offer solutions or is he just going to sit there and point fingers? I don't hear him offering to set up non-profit organizations to do something. It is called put up or shut up Rep. Ryan. My suggestion is to actually go down there and see what the people are like and figure out who has the most influence so that person (or people) can be a more positive influence. That is where you start. The only reason why the government is involved is because the government has moral obligation to help the citizens of the country. The other side of it is that there is no country wide organization that can do what the federal government does.

    March 13, 2014 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  4. Ian Hayden Parker

    i am a big liberal who also does inner city work, and ryans statement here is the only thing i have ever heard him say that i can agree with, and most of my liberal friends would agree that getting inner city men to work and care for their children is a huge problem that is generational. so why the attack on ryan? simple, he might run for president so everything is amplified (by both parties) to damage anyone who might be a candidate. republicans do the same amplification to hilary,

    March 13, 2014 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  5. Robert N. constant

    The bottom line is this. The Republican base is the Old Confederacy. If you superimpose maps of the Old Confederacy, the Bible Belt and The Red States, you are covering the same territory. There, the Civil War is still going on. White Churches. Black Churches. White private schools. Black public schools. The area is a cess pool of racism
    In the rest of the country Republican Hate Radio is openly playing the Race Card to galvanize the same kinds of people. Rush Limbaugh is one of the stars of Mitt Romney's 850 Clear Channel Radio Stations. His code words are "welfare cheats" affirmative action" and so on. Many of the disgruntled, weak minded who know no better succumb to his drug addict rants.
    Paul Ryan is simply playing to the Republican Party base. He wants to win the Republican nomination, and he needs these people to win. I imagine he will also play the homophobic card and the anti abortion card. These are mostly the same people.

    March 13, 2014 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  6. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    I see that the GOP has found the poster boy and spokesperson for their outreach efforts into the Black community...

    March 13, 2014 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  7. Wake up People!

    This Murray guy is not the first to say blacks have inferior intelligence. A general said it back in the 30's. Which was the reason for the Tuskegee Experiment. He said black men had inferior intelligence and were cowards, that they could never be fighter pilots. But they proved him wrong.

    March 13, 2014 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  8. Mark

    If you think the poor are inferior creatures, subhumans unworthy of even the slightest bit of assistance, the logical next step is genocide. That's what plenty of American academics thought in the 1930s until they saw Germany carry their ideas out, and some were unmoved even then.

    March 13, 2014 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  9. Robert N. constant

    Ryan is playing to his Republican racist base.

    March 13, 2014 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  10. Sniffit

    "The GOP- the wedge in America."

    The GOP- the wedgIE in America.

    FIFY 😛

    March 13, 2014 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  11. Brian

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

    There is the intrinsic problem with congress. In our normal lives, if someone says something stupid, we deal with them directly, we don't run to the newspaper about it

    March 13, 2014 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  12. jane doe

    that's all the republican do is fumble and keep fumbling in the dark thay all need to go...can;t you peaople see they are not telling he truth and not even when it fit or benefit them the republican.... i cannot believe some of t he hateful stuff you people write

    March 13, 2014 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  13. Larry L

    Ryan referenced Charles Murray, who wrote the book “The Bell Curve,” which claims that black people have inferior intelligence.

    “The common denominator of the underclass (is) increasingly low intelligence rather than racial or social disadvantage,” a summary of the book on the AEI website says."
    So "Lyin' Ryan" has a new hero... His 2016 platform now lists 1. Kill Social Security, 2. Give Medicare to Wall Street, 3. Call poor people "less intelligent". The GOP Clown Car is filling up with exactly the same sort of candidates as that of 2012.

    March 13, 2014 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  14. troof

    the only peoplke who are bringing race into this are the democrats. not all "inner city" people are black. To imply they are is racist.

    March 13, 2014 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  15. kengie

    Who was surprised by his remark? Conservatives are so much smarter than the rest of us NORMAL people, just look at Carl Rove and big Dick Morris, just a couple of the smarter than thee people!

    March 13, 2014 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  16. dap1010

    I think that Congressman Ryan has hit the nail on the head. I also think that Congresswoman Lee is making this a racial issue and that makes her the racist. Congresswoman Lee, I extend an offer to you to join me in a tour of Decatur, IL where you can witness this culture first hand. I know people in Decatur who don't work and have never even thought of working because of the way they were raised, in poverty, with handouts from the federal and state governments. The war on poverty is a great failure and congress needs to pull their heads out of the rear orifices and recognize this.

    March 13, 2014 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  17. get realist

    Hey baptist_deacon,


    The word is "intelligence".

    March 13, 2014 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  18. JHL

    Anyone who thinks that Ryan wasn't referring to black is delusional.

    He wants to run in 2016 and he is saying this now to let the Republican base know that, notwithstanding what may be more moderate comments he'll make in a run-up to the election, he really is one of them.

    And he'd like to give a shout-out to Ayn Rand, but he does that in his economic proposals.

    March 13, 2014 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  19. salty dog

    Quality guy, very low quality.

    March 13, 2014 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  20. Guest 1

    He makes a factual statement and is blasted for it??

    March 13, 2014 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  21. airbornevet187

    There a lot of that in the inner city, lets not lie to ourselves.
    But the reason for that is due to the lack of opportunities that kids have compared to affluent and suburban kids, lets not lie to ourselves.
    Lyin'-Ryan thinks it's because of magic.

    March 13, 2014 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  22. Jeff Schlagel

    You know whether your a Republican or Democrat anyone should be able to figure out CNN is trying to race bait again with this story. Race baiting should be a crime just like hate crimes.

    March 13, 2014 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  23. Lizzie

    Robert N. constant "Ryan is playing to his Republican racist base." The only one that is racist is you. Apparently you don't live in the inner city or the poorer neighborhoods or you would not spout off.
    Barbara Lee congresswomen from Cali, is a loyal democrat and can be counted on to vote for whatever the democrats tell her to vote for.

    March 13, 2014 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  24. Fr33th1nk3r

    I don't see the problem with what he said, and I am all for bagging on Repubs for their stupid inventions like "legitimate rape".

    We cannot deny the facts and what they tell us. To deny facts in favor of political correctness, is also a form of racism.

    March 13, 2014 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  25. Ron L

    You want to change a culture you HAVE TO inject new OPPORTUNITY. There has been nothing done to show many of these people there IS light at the end of the tunnel....Imagine you find a job, you work hard, but your pay is so little there is NOTHING left to invest for a brighter future. Without some glimmer of HOPE all that is left is DESPAIR.

    March 13, 2014 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
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