At a town hall meeting in Racine, WI on Wednesday, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) was confronted by a black constituent about his remarks disparaging lazy “inner city” men as a drain on the economy.
Think Progress reported that 61-year-old Alfonso Gardner of Racine asked the erstwhile vice presidential candidate exactly what he meant when he said “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 and learning the value and culture of work.”
“You said what you meant,” said Gardner to Ryan during the question and answer section of his appearance. When Ryan said “inner city,” Gardner contended, it was “a code word for black.”
Ryan acted offended that Gardner brought race into the discussion, saying, “There is nothing whatsoever about race in my comments at all.”
Gardner was overreacting, he said, “I think when we throw these charges [of racism] around, it should be based on something.”
Think Progress’ Scott Keyes spoke to Gardner after the event, who said, “He’s out here shucking and jiving. He’s been in Congress eight terms and just now talking about poverty?”
Furthermore, when Ryan made his remarks on Bill Bennett’s AM radio talk show “Morning in America,” he referenced white supremacist writer Charles Murray, who the Southern Poverty Law Center said uses “racist pseudoscience and misleading statistics to argue that social inequality is caused by the genetic inferiority” of African-Americans.
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) excoriated Ryan for the statements, which she said “are a thinly veiled racial attack and cannot be tolerated.”
“As someone who sits on the Budget Committee with Mr. Ryan, I know that his assertions about the racial dynamics of poverty are not only statistically inaccurate, but deeply offensive,” said Lee. “Instead of demonizing ‘culture,’ and blaming black men for their poverty, Mr. Ryan should step up and produce some legitimate proposals on how to tackle poverty and racial discrimination in America.”
She went on to slam the Wisconsin Republican’s “complete lack of knowledge and understanding of the issues in urban and black communities.”
Watch the video, embedded below:
[image of Rep. Ryan by Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons licensed]