Paul Ryan’s ‘inner city’ comments spark 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.”