President Donald Trump sparked a heated debate with his controversial comments about the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. The president drew waves of criticism not only from the opposition, but also denouncements from within his own party.
During a recent town hall, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said he believes Trump “messed up in his comments” when he said “both sides” were to be blamed for the violence.
While responding to an audience member question asking whether he would denounce Trump, Ryan said, “I think he made comments that were much more morally ambiguous, much more confusing, and I do think he could have done better and needed to do better. I do believe he messed up in his comments on Tuesday.”
However, when asked if the president should be held accountable, Ryan said he would not support that.
“I’d like to ask you what concrete steps that you will take to hold the president accountable when his words and executive actions either implicitly or explicitly condone, if not champion, racism and xenophobia. For example, will you support the resolution for censure?” Dina Feingold, an audience member, asked.
Ryan replied sternly, “I will not support that. That would be so counterproductive.”
He later said the president had since repaired the damage he had done.
“It was not only morally ambiguous, it was equivocating. And that was wrong. That’s why I think it was very, very important that he has since then cleared that up. I think it was important that he did that tonight,” he said.
During the town hall, Ryan also said he would like the president to tweet less.
“Do I wish there would be a little less tweeting? Of course I do. But I don’t think it’s going to change,” said the House speaker.
CNN’s Jake Tapper, who was moderating the session, pressed Ryan on the reluctance of the Republican Party to condemn Trump’s controversial remarks. He said, “We all have a lot more to do. We have a lot more to do in this area. And I think we have a lot more to do to make sure these guys don’t get normalized.”
The House speaker also released a lengthy statement, which said, “There are no sides.” He called the incident a “test of moral clarity.”
“There is no other argument. We will not tolerate this hateful ideology in our society. That is why we all need to make clear there is no moral relativism when it comes to neo-Nazis. We cannot allow the slightest ambiguity on such a fundamental question,” he said.
However, Paul Ryan might not be the best man to condemn Trump’s actions, as in the past he has denounced Trump but quickly reverted from his stance and endorsed him.
During the presidential campaign, Ryan called out Trump for failing to denounce white supremacist groups. However, a few days later, he wrote an op-ed and openly endorsed the business mogul
In another instance, the Republican condemned Trump’s Muslim ban but again rolled back on his words and stood beside him.
After the Charlottesville tragedy, Trump was assailed by Republicans and Democrats alike for failing to respond more forcefully to the violence. After approximately 48 hours, he finally offered a tepid speech.
“Racism is evil and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans,” he said.
Shortly after, Trump reversed course yet again, making controversial remarks about the Charlottesville tragedy where he said “both sides” — as in both the neo-Nazis and the counter-protestors — were to blame for the violence.
Spotlight, Banner: Reuters, Yuri Gripas