House Speaker Paul Ryan had sharp criticism for President Donald Trump on Monday night when asked about 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 president denounced 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 — at a press conference during which he said there were “very fine people” among the neo-Nazis and white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville — was problematic.
“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 that rally.”
“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 hack-fest.”
Watch a portion of Ryan’s remarks below:
— CNN (@CNN) August 22, 2017
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