RACINE, Wisconsin — If you could pinpoint the moment when Paul Ryan lost control of his message on Wednesday, it was when he began explaining to an African American constituent why his recent comments about lazy “inner city” men actually had nothing to do with race.
“You said what you meant,” Alfonso Gardner, a 61-year-old African American man from Racine, told Ryan at a town hall meeting. “[Inner city is] a code word for black.”
Ryan remained defiant though. “There is nothing whatsoever about race in my comments at all,” he said. He admonished Gardner for drawing a connection between his “inner city” remarks and race. “I think when we throw these charges around, it should be based on something.”
ThinkProgress spoke with Gardner after the town hall to get his reaction. He said Ryan’s trying to have it both ways, saying different things to different people. “He’s out here shucking and jiving,” Gardner said. “He’s been in Congress eight terms and just now talking about poverty?”
Gardner isn’t the only constituent taking offense. ThinkProgress interviewed a number of Racine residents this week about Ryan’s statement. They were not amused with their congressman’s words.