In an interview on The Today Show Tuesday morning, Republican vice-presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) said criticism about his anecdote about a plant that closed before Barack Obama became president has been misplaced, and that he wasn’t trying to blame Obama for the facility shutting down.
“That is not what I was saying. Read the speech,” Ryan told host Matt Lauer. “What I was saying is, the President ought to be held to account for his broken promises. After our plant was shut down, he said that he would lead an effort to retool plants like the Janesville [Wisconsin] plant, to get people back to work. It’s still idle. People are still not working. Lots of people I grew up with who lost their jobs, still don’t have those jobs there. So my point was not to lay blame on a plant shutdown. It was, this is yet another example of the president’s broken promises.”
Ryan invoked the Janesville plant for the second time during his nomination speech at last week’s Republican National Convention, saying that during a campaign visit in 2008, Obama said that “if our government is there to support you,” the plant would be there for another hundred years.
“Well, as it turned out, that plant didn’t last another year,” Ryan said in last week’s speech. “It is locked up and empty to this day. And that’s how it is in so many towns today, where the recovery that was promised is nowhere in sight.”
As CNN noted, Ryan had previously mentioned the plant in an Aug. 16 speech, saying, “that plant was shut down in 2009. I remember President Obama visiting it when he was first running, saying he’ll keep that plant open. One more broken promise.”
A Washington Post timeline of the plant’s shutdown shows that General Motors’ decision to close the facility started in June 2008, with most production stopping on Dec. 23 of that year. The final vehicle was produced on the lot on April 21, 2009, by which time its fate had been sealed.
Ryan’s remarks Tuesday hewed closer to the Associated Press’ record of Obama’s speech in October 2008. However, the Council on Foreign Relations’ account of the speech has Obama saying, “I believe that if our government is there to support you, and give you the assistance you need to re-tool and make this transition, that this plant will be here for another hundred years.”
Responding to Ryan’s “read the speech” challenge, Lauer said he had both read and listened to his RNC speech and told him, “it seemed like you were unmistakably trying to link the president’s promise with the closing of that plant, which you know, obviously, closed before he became president.”
Watch Ryan’s Tuesday morning interview with Lauer below.