House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) ducked a question from a constituent at a town hall Monday evening who asked Ryan what specific steps he would take to hold President Trump accountable after he praised participants in a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville.
The woman was a rabbi and longtime family friend of Ryan’s, and she told the speaker she has seen an uptick in brazen public expressions of white supremacy and anti-semitism since Trump’s election.
“I’d like to ask you what concrete steps that you will take to hold the president accountable when his words and executive actions either implicitly or explicitly condone, if not champion, racism and xenophobia,” the woman, Dina Feingold, said. “For example, will you support the resolution for censure?”
Ryan had been chipper throughout the start of the town hall that was broadcast on CNN and moderated by CNN anchor Jake Tapper. He first said Feingold was a family friend, and then answered sternly, “I will not support that. That would be so counterproductive.”
Censure, Ryan said, would be “the absolute worst thing to do,” and offered no concrete steps for how he would hold Trump accountable for words or actions that implicitly or explicitly support white nationalism.
“That would be so counterproductive. If we descend this issue into some partisan hackfest, into some bickering against each other, and demean it down to some political food fight, what good does that do to unify this country?” Ryan asked. “We want to unify this country against this kind of hatred and this kind of bigotry.”
The speaker instead said we need to “drop our guard, start listening to each other, and having a good civil dialogue.”
Tapper pressed Ryan on his comments, noting that Trump comments Tuesday were applauded by former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke.
“I think he messed up on Tuesday,” Ryan said. “So, let me say it this way, it is very, very important that we not make this a partisan food fight. It is very important that we unify in condemning this kind of violence, in condemning this kind of hatred. And to make this us against them, Republicans against Democrats, pro-trump, anti-Trump, that is a big mistake for our country and that will demean the value of this important issue.”
Tapper also noted that Ryan’s former running mate, 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has called for Trump to apologize for his comments last week in which he offered support for white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and KKK members who rallied in Charlottesville last weekend.
“I said I think he needs to do better,” Ryan said. “I think he just did today.”