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Ryan: Speech didn’t say Obama responsible for GM plant closure

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Tuesday defended his Republican National Committee speech and said he had not accused President Obama of being responsible for the closure of an auto plant in Janesville, Wis.

"What they're trying to suggest is that I said that Barack Obama was responsible for our plant shutdown in Janesville," Ryan said Monday on NBC's "Today" show. "That is not what I was saying. Read the speech. What I was saying is the president ought to be held to account for his broken promises."

In his GOP convention speech about a week earlier, Ryan suggested that President Obama had failed to deliver on a campaign promise to keep a General Motors plant in Janesville, Wis., Ryan's home district, from closing. 

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"Right there at that plant, candidate Obama said, 'I believe that if our government is there to support you,' " Ryan recounted Obama saying in October 2008, " 'this plant will be here for another hundred years.’ That’s what he said in 2008. Well, as it turned out, that plant didn’t last another year. It is locked up and empty to this day."

Critics of the speech and the claim in particular noted that the plant effectively closed on December 23, 2008, after Obama’s election, but before he took office.

On Monday, Ryan said his comments were intended to highlight Obama’s failure to follow through on his campaign promises and his weak economic record.

"After our plant was shut down he said he would lead an effort to retool the plants to get people back to work. It's still idle. People are still not working there,” said Ryan.

“Lots of people I grew up with who lost their jobs there still don't have their jobs there. So my point was not to lay blame on a plant shutdown, it was this was another example of the president's broken promises."


The Obama campaign responded to Ryan’s defense with a “fact check” email that said the Wisconsin lawmaker had “repeated the falsehood he told about the Janesville GM plant in his convention speech.”

“The truth is that the GM plant closed before President Obama took office and, as the Detroit News reported, he ‘made no such promise’ to keep it open,” said Obama campaign spokesman Danny Kanner.


On Friday, Vice President Biden also weighed in on Ryan’s speech during a campaign stop in Ohio.

"Congressman Ryan was right about one thing. It was devastating for the community and those people. But what he didn’t tell you was that plant in Janesville actually closed while President Bush was still in office," Biden said.

This story was updated at 9:25 a.m.