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Paul Ryan Won’t Call Out Antifa In Charlottesville

By  Robert Kraychik

On Monday, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) neglected to identify left-wing agitation groups such as “Antifa” and “Black Lives Matter” while discussing recent unrest in Charlottesville, VA

Ryan took part in a CNN “town hall” event in Racine, WI, hosted by Jake Tapper.

Ryan was invited to directly condemn President Donald Trump’s response to Charlottesville’s unrest without qualifications or justification. He was asked the following non sequitur-esque question by Eric Kramer:

You’ve come out and forcefully condemned bigotry and racism, but you have not come out and — Are you willing to come out and forcefully condemn Trump’s statement, such as Bob Corker and Mitt Romney have?

In his response, Ryan omitted any comments on Antifa or Black Lives Matter — contemporary rebrandings of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement — in his comments about criminal violence ar Charlottesville’s “United the Right” rally.

“Every single one of us needs to unify and stand up against this repulsive, repugnant, vile bigotry,” said Ryan, as if opposition to white racial nationalism and associated bigotries is not the American norm.

“All of us have gotta do more… We’ve got to keep our moral outrage,” added Ryan, calling on Americans to spend more time and resources combating supposedly widespread white racial nationalism and associated bigotries.

Tapper interjected, waxing polemical:

I think the issue that Eric was expressing is the reluctance to criticize President Trump for specifically saying things like, “very fine people” were marching in that rally that had swastikas and anti-Semitic chants. There were not any “very fine people” in that rally, and [Trump’s response to Charlottesville’s unrest] wasn’t morally ambiguous, it was morally wrong.

Tapper also neglected to offer any comments on the violent Antifa and Black Lives Matter protesters, as is his pattern.

Watch the moment below.

Broadly, no questions were asked and no commentary offered about broader threats to First Amendment protections of free speech and expression coming from Democrats and the broader left.

Earlier on Monday, Ryan issued a statement via Facebook regarding Charlottesville’s unrest in which he refused to identify left-wing agitation groups. He offered no criticism of such groups’ ideologies or commission of criminal violence, threats, or vandalism. Read the statement below, entitled, “Let There Be No Confusion” (emphases Ryan’s):

I was struck by the tone Heather Heyer’s parents took at her memorial service. Here they are suddenly grieving and saying goodbye to their daughter, taken by an act of domestic terrorism. And instead of turning to anger, they call for healing and forgiveness. They set a powerful example.

When this all happened last Saturday, I was in the mountains with my family. Our annual camping trip is the kind of time away we really cherish these days. Of course, the escape was short-lived, jolted back to reality by what happened in Charlottesville.

I felt the range of emotions that so many of us did. Anger, bewilderment, sadness. As I said then, the views that fueled this spectacle are repugnant. My hope was that the nation would unite in opposition to this bigotry.

The immediate condemnations from left, right, and center affirmed that there is no confusion about right and wrong here.

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. 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.

If America stands for anything, 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. 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.

So this is not a legislative issue. And it certainly isn’t a political one. Let’s not just reduce this to one of the partisan squabbles of the day. It is so much bigger than all that.

This is a test of our moral clarity. 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.

I look forward to talking more about this tonight at my CNN town hall in Racine, Wisconsin.

Follow Robert Kraychik on Twitter.

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