Speaker Paul Ryan: Leaders must push beyond ‘passions of moment’

US House Speaker Paul Ryan speaks at his weekly press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on July 27, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / NICHOLAS KAMM

WASHINGTON — The nation’s leaders “have an obligation” to steer the country past “the passions of the moment,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said Monday in remarks that didn’t explicitly criticize President Donald Trump’s handling of this month’s deadly clash in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The written statement by Ryan, R-Wis., came six days after Pres. Trump used a news conference to say “both sides” were to blame for the Charlottesville violence, in which neo-Nazis and other right-wing groups clashed with counter-protesters. Pres. Trump said there were “very fine people” in each group.

Pres. Trump’s remarks have drawn bipartisan criticism for equating the two sides. Many Republicans’ comments have focused on condemning the views of white supremacists without specifically faulting the president for what he said.

In a written statement Monday, Ryan did not mention Pres. Trump by name.

Saying the chase for equality sets the U.S. apart, Ryan said, “This goes especially for our leaders. Those of us entrusted with the privilege to serve and represent the American people have an obligation to challenge us to push beyond the passions of the moment.”

Ryan called the issue “a test of our moral clarity.” He added, “The words we use and the attitudes we carry matter.”

He called Charlottesville “a disheartening setback in our fight to eliminate hate. But it is not the end of the story. We can and must do better.”

Ryan said last week that white supremacy is “repulsive” and said there was “no moral ambiguity” about that. He had not said how he believes leaders should react to the problem.

Ryan has a nationally televised town hall meeting Monday evening.