Paul Ryan: Poverty comments were ‘inarticulate’
Rep. Paul Ryan on Thursday called remarks he made the day before “inarticulate,” responding to a firestorm from the left that accused him of racially insensitive comments.
“After reading the transcript of yesterday morning’s interview, it is clear that I was inarticulate about the point I was trying to make,” Ryan said in a statement emailed to reporters.
The Wisconsin Republican was promoting his proposals for addressing poverty on Bill Bennett’s “Morning in America” radio show Wednesday when he brought up “inner cities” culture.
“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 the value and the culture of work, and so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with,” he said, urging everyone to get involved in blighted communities even if they live in the suburbs.
The comment was quickly picked up by the left, with Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), a co-chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus’s Poverty and Economy Task Force, issuing a statement slamming Ryan’s “offensive” remarks.
“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,’” Lee said.
Ryan called Lee on Wednesday to explain his comments, his office said, and on Thursday issued his statement clarifying what he intended to say.
“I was not implicating the culture of one community — but of society as a whole,” he said. “We have allowed our society to isolate or quarantine the poor rather than integrate people into our communities. The predictable result has been multi-generational poverty and little opportunity. … 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.”
The former vice presidential candidate and rumored 2016 hopeful has been focusing on anti-poverty policies in recent weeks. The House Budget Committee he chairs released a more-than 200 page report last week on “The War on Poverty: 50 Years Later.”
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