Just Who’s Lazy?

A timeline of the events since Paul Ryan blamed poverty on lazy ‘inner city’ men yesterday.

A Timeline of Paul Ryan’s Latest Controversial Comments

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) has a history of attacking anti-poverty programs under the guise of helping the poor. His most recent budgets have gotten two-thirds of their cuts from programs helping low and moderate income Americans, while proposing lopsided tax cuts for millionaires. And in his recent report looking at poverty 50 years after Lyndon Johnson’s “War On Poverty,” he concluded that many aspects of the social safety net were “making it worse” (he tried to cite social science research when doing so, but that didn’t work out so well).

But yesterday, Ryan made controversial comments on Bill Bennett’s radio program that went beyond just policy programs — and have set off a flurry of activity since. We’ve put together a timeline of the events to get you up to speed.

Wednesday Morning:

Paul Ryan Blames Poverty On Lazy ‘Inner City’ Men. On the Bill Bennett radio program, Ryan said, “We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work, and so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with.” He also cited Charles Murray, a conservative social scientist who believes African-Americans are, as a population, less intelligent than whites due to genetic differences.

Wednesday Afternoon:

African-American Congresswoman Slams Paul Ryan For Racially Charged Comments. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) of the Congressional Black Caucus released a statement condemning Ryan’s comments as “a thinly veiled racial attack [that] cannot be tolerated. Let’s be clear, when Mr. Ryan says ‘inner city,’ when he says, ‘culture,’ these are simply code words for what he really means: ‘black.’”

Wednesday Night:

Ryan Defends Comments On Lazy ‘Inner City’ Men. Facing growing outrage over his comments that morning, Ryan told the blog Crew of 42, “This has nothing to do whatsoever with race. It never even occurred to me. This has nothing to do with race whatsoever.” He then changed the focus to poverty in “rural” areas.


Social Media Set Ablaze Over Comments. By Thursday morning, the ThinkProgress post which first reported the comments had been shared on Facebook over 20,000 times and on Twitter over 2,000 times. Dozens of news articles had been written on it.

Thursday Morning:

Paul Ryan Backpedals, But Doesn’t Apologize, For Comments About Lazy ‘Inner City’ Men. In a statement issued to ThinkProgress, Ryan said he regretted the comments and stressed that he did not intend to slander an entire community: “After reading the transcript of yesterday morning’s interview, it is clear that I was inarticulate about the point I was trying to make. I was not implicating the culture of one community—but of society as a whole.” Ryan’s office also confirmed that the Congressman reached out to Rep. Barbara Lee and the two spoke about the matter.

BOTTOM LINE: Everyone understands that people misspeak. But Paul Ryan’s comments raise more serious red flags. Ana Marie Cox at The Guardian sums it up as well as anyone:

“If Paul Ryan was forced to work from the assumption that poor people – including poor black people – have the same basic values and desires as he does, he could no longer diagnose the dysfunction of those communities as dependence on handouts. He’d have to come up with some other reason that poor people are trapped in a cycle of poverty – it might have something to do with systemic racism – and another solution to it. And almost anything would be better than the one he has now.”

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Advocacy Team