House Speaker Paul Ryan had sharp criticism for President Donald
Trump on Monday night when asked about President Donald Trump’s
handling of a white nationalist rally that turned deadly in
Charlottesville, Virginia, earlier this month.
In an answer to a question from the audience, Ryan
dinged Trump’s response during a CNN town-hall event in
Ryan’s Wisconsin congressional district. He called Trump’s
August 14 speech, in which the
white supremacist groups by name, “pitch-perfect.” Trump
condemned the hate groups after two days of withering
backlash for initially blaming “many sides” for the violence
that left one counterprotester dead.
Ryan said Trump’s reversal just 24 hours later — a
press conference during which he
said there were “very fine people” among the neo-Nazis and white
supremacists who marched in Charlottesville — was
“He made comments that were much more morally
ambiguous, much more confusing,” Ryan said. “And I do think he
could’ve done better. I think he needed to do better.”
CNN host Jake Tapper took exception to Ryan’s assertions
that Trump’s comments there were morally ambiguous.
The issue, Tapper said, is “the reluctance to criticize
President Trump for specifically saying things like, ‘Very fine
people were marching’ in that rally that had swastikas and
anti-Semitic chants, and there were not any very fine people in
“And it wasn’t morally ambiguous, it was morally wrong,
what the president said.” Tapper said.
Ryan subsequently agreed.
“It was not only morally ambiguous, it was equivocating,
and that was wrong,” he said. When asked if what Trump has done
to denounce racism, anti-Semitism and hate groups was enough,
Ryan said simply, “I don’t think any of us have done enough. I
think we all have a lot more to do.”
Ryan said later, however, that he would not support a
censure resolution in the House — a formal rebuke — of Trump for
his comments. He said that would turn the issue into a “partisan
Watch a portion of Ryan’s remarks below: