Ryan says Trump ‘messed up’ on Charlottesville, rejects censure


President Trump “could have done better” in his response to the racially charged violence in Charlottesville, Va., earlier this month, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Monday, though he rejected a Democratic push to censure Trump for his remarks.

Ryan’s comments at a CNN town hall in Racine, Wis., were the first he made directly criticizing Trump for saying that “both” white supremacists and counterprotesters were to blame for the violence and that there were some “very fine people” among the white nationalists chanting racial slurs and carrying Nazi flags in protest of the removal of a Confederate statue. One counterprotester died and at least a dozen others were injured when a man with alleged racist ties plowed his car into a crowd.

Trump “made comments that were much more morally ambiguous, much more confusing, and I do think he could have done better,” Ryan said of Trump’s second press conference on the matter.

{mosads}“I do believe he messed up in his comments on Tuesday [Aug. 15] when it sounded like a moral equivocation or, at the very least, a moral ambiguity, when we need extreme moral clarity,” Ryan added.

The Speaker, however, said Trump struck the right tone in a speech the day before, when he called for unity, and in remarks over the weekend praising the thousands who turned out in Boston to peacefully protest hate groups.

Ryan said “no” when a town hall participant asked if he would support a congressional censure of Trump pushed by Democratic lawmakers, saying such a push would devolve into a “political food fight.”

“It should not be about the president. This is not about Republicans or Democrats. This shouldn’t be about some vote in Congress or some partisan issue. This is so much more important than that,” Ryan said. “This issue speaks to humanity, our country, our society, our culture.

“Every single one of us needs to unify against this repulsive, repugnant, vile bigotry. That is so important.”

What Ryan fears most is that Americans will grow “numb” to the hateful rhetoric spewed by white supremacists and neo-Nazis, he said.

“We’ve got to keep our moral outrage. And we’ve all got to stand up and speak out against this kind of bigotry so it is never normalized. So that we don’t give these people the oxygen that they are looking for,” he said. “They are at the fringe; let’s keep them at the fringe.”

Asked about Trump’s comments that there were “very fine people” on both sides of the Charlottesville clashes, Ryan said he rejected them.

“I have a hard time believing if you are standing in a crowd protesting something, and you see all these anti-Semitic slogans, and the ‘Heil Hitlers’ and the swastikas, and you are good with that,” Ryan said, “then you are not a good person.”

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