US & Canada

Paul Ryan clarifies 'inarticulate' remarks on inner cities

Paul Ryan in Washington DC on 6 March 2014 Image copyright AFP

Senior US Republican Paul Ryan has said that remarks he made on a radio talk show that were labelled as coded racism were "inarticulate".

Mr Ryan, a 2012 vice-presidential nominee, said on the show there was "a real culture problem" of men in inner cities who did not want to work.

Critics said it was a thinly veiled reference to African-Americans.

The House budget committee chairman from Wisconsin said he had not meant to single out any community.

'Veiled racial attack'

Speaking on Bill Bennett's Morning in America programme on Wednesday, Mr Ryan said there was a "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".

Image copyright AP
Image caption House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Representative Barbara Lee attacked Paul Ryan's comments

He added: "So there's a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with."

Democratic California Representative Barbara Lee, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, said Mr Ryan's comments were "a thinly veiled racial attack and cannot be tolerated".

"Let's be clear," she said in a statement, "when Mr Ryan says 'inner city', when he says 'culture', these are simply code words for what he really means: 'black.'"

Democratic House of Representatives leader Nancy Pelosi also pounced on Mr Ryan's phrasing, calling it "shameful and wrong".

On Thursday, Mr Ryan said: "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.

"We have allowed our society to isolate or quarantine the poor rather than integrate people into our communities."