Black Constituent Confronts Ryan and Accuses Him of ‘Shucking and Jiving’

by Andrew Johnson

During an event in his home district, Representative Paul Ryan was confronted by an African-American constituent who told him his comments about the culture in “inner cities” carried racist overtones.

Alfonso Gardner, from Mount Pleasant, Wis., accused Ryan of using “a code word for black.” Gardner, who seemed to be reading from written notes, observed that the congressman had called his own words “inarticulate,” but he didn’t buy the apology: “If you didn’t mean this, you wouldn’t have said it, okay? People don’t say something that they don’t mean.”

The congressman said “there was nothing whatsoever about race in my comments at all. It had nothing to do with race.” 

There appears to have been some back-and-forth between Ryan and Gardner, which the liberal organization ThinkProgress edited out of the video it recorded. “Sometimes when you’re on radio you try to take a bunch of ideas and collapse it into a couple sentences and you oversimplify, and it can be misinterpreted, that’s what’s happened here,” Ryan said.

Ryan insisted that his comments were part of an effort to combat poverty and open up more job opportunities, but Gardner would have none of it.

ThinkProgress happened to catch up with Gardner after the event, and he stood by his criticisms. “He’s out here shucking and jiving,” he told the organization. “He’s been in Congress eight terms and just now talking about poverty?”

For more reaction to Ryan’s comments, be sure to check out takes from the editors (“Paul Ryan Is Right“) and Rich Lowry (“Paul Ryan’s White Hood“).