Paul Ryan: Inner City Comments Had “Nothing to Do Whatsoever With Race”

Paul Ryan: Inner City Comments Had “Nothing to Do Whatsoever With Race”

** EXCLUSIVE ** Ryan: Poverty Discussion Had Nothing to do with Race. After comments Wednesday morning on Bill Bennett’s radio show Morning in America, Rep. Paul Ryan explained Wednesday afternoon that his discussion with Bennett had “nothing” to do with race.  Audio of Ryan’s comments, which have received much reaction, can be heard at bottom.

“We have got this 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 to value the culture of work, so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with,” Ryan, who was the Republican nominee for Vice President in 2012, said to Bennett Wednesday morning.

Ryan represents Wisconsin’s first congressional district, which is 90% white, 5% Hispanic and 4% black.

When I asked Ryan if he’d like to “revise and extend his remarks on black men” as he left he House floor after last votes on Wednesday he said, “it was taken out of context — it was, that was — out of left field — out of context.”

“This has nothing to do whatsoever with race,” Ryan he added as we spoke in an elevator. He also indicated that it ryan2was Bennett that raised the initial issue over the course of a lengthy discussion.

“It was a long talk and he asked about the culture and I just went off of that,” Ryan said. “This has nothing to do whatsoever with race. It never even occurred to me. This has nothing to do with race whatsoever,” he repeated.

“This isn’t a race based comment it’s a breakdown of families, it’s rural poverty in rural areas, and talking about where poverty exists — there are no jobs and we have a breakdown of the family.  This has nothing to do with race,” Ryan continued to explained as he walked.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) reacted strongly to Ryan’s comments on Wednesday evening with a statement that echoed much of the criticism seen on twitter and elsewhere.

“My colleague Congressman Ryan’s comments about “inner city” poverty are a thinly veiled racial attack and cannot be tolerated. Let’ss be clear, when Mr. Ryan says “inner city, when he says, “culture,” these are simply code words for what he really means: black,” Lee concluded in a statement.

Ryan also mention Charles Murray during the discussion with Bennett. Many accused Murray of “scientific racism” in the 1990s after his book The Bell Curve was published. 

When asked what policies he might advance to deal with issues around poverty Ryan said, “well, I’m going to talk more about that in the future. The point I’m making about poverty is that we can’t accept the status quo and we’re measuring success based on how much spending we make on programs instead of how many people we get out of poverty. I want to have a conversation about getting out of the rut we are in… we need to rethink our strategies about getting people out of poverty.”

Ryan says he’s been “touring inner cities all around the country all year” visiting people in poverty and talking to advocates who have been successful getting people out of poverty and that he will speak out on what he has learned.

When I asked what Ryan thought of President Obama’s new initiative My Brother’s Keeper, he replied, “I like it. I just sent him a letter on it.”