House Speaker Paul Ryan spoke out Monday on the violence in Charlottesville, releasing a statement that seemed aimed at President Trump’s view that there was blame on both sides.
"The immediate condemnations from left, right, and center affirmed that there is no confusion about right and wrong here," Ryan said. "There are no sides. There is no other argument. We will not tolerate this hateful ideology in our society."
“I still firmly believe this hate exists only on the fringes,” Ryan added. “But so long as it exists, we need to talk about it. We need to call it what it is. And so long as it is weaponized for fear and terror, we need to confront it and defeat it.”
“That is why we all need to make clear there is no moral relativism when it comes to neo-Nazis. We cannot allow the slightest ambiguity on such a fundamental question,” he emphasized.
Ryan was likely responding in part to Trump’s comments on the rally last Tuesday, in which he drew controversy by saying, “I’ve condemned many different groups. But not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch. Those people were also there because they wanted to protest the taking down of a statue of Robert E. Lee.”
Trump emphasized that “you had a group on one side and you had a group on the other and they came at each other with clubs and it was vicious and it was horrible and it was a horrible thing to watch, but there is another side. There was a group on this side — you can call them the left, you've just called them the left — that came violently attacking the other group, so you can say what you want but that's the way it is.”
Trump did condemn the neo-Nazis, KKK, and other white supremacist groups in those remarks, especially the white supremacist who drove a car into counter protestors, killing Heather Heyer.
Ryan wrote that he was “struck” by the tone Heather Heyer’s parents took at her memorial service and their call for healing and forgiveness which he says sets “a powerful example.”
“If America stands for anything,” he said, “it is the idea that the condition of your birth doesn’t affect the outcome of your life. The notion that anyone is intrinsically superior to anyone else runs completely counter to our founding principles. Those principles make America special. They by no means make us perfect. We may never fully eradicate this scourge. After all, this republic is defined by its often winding pursuit of a more perfect union.”
“But it is that chase that sets us apart,” he said. “It is the notion we are always trying to be better. This goes especially for our leaders. Those of us entrusted with the privilege to serve and represent the American people have an obligation to challenge us to push beyond the passions of the moment.”
He called this “a test of our moral clarity,” and added that “the words we use and the attitudes we carry matter. Yes, this has been a disheartening setback in our fight to eliminate hate. But it is not the end of the story. We can and must do better. We owe it to Heather Heyer, and to all our children.”
Ryan concluded that he will be discussing the issue more in his CNN town hall Monday evening.
Ryan had initially tweeted following Trump’s Tuesday remarks that “We must be clear. White supremacy is repulsive. This bigotry is counter to all this country stands for. There can be no moral ambiguity.”