Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) chastised House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) for his controversial comments on poverty last month, calling Ryan’s reference to conservative social scientist Charles Murray a reflection of his “ignorance” during an appearance on MSNBC’s “NewsNation” Wednesday.
"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," Ryan said on Bill Bennett's "Morning in America" radio show in March, crediting his arguments in part to Murray. "There is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with."
Cleaver characterized Ryan’s analysis as an indication that “He probably doesn’t know anything about people, African-American men or the Latino men in the inner city,” before scrutinizing the Wisconsin Republican for citing a “racist.”
“The problem, though, is that he was quoting Charles Murray, who has been pouring racist sewage into open ears for a couple generations now, and he has been pushing his theories of the bell curve and white supremacy, and Ryan quoted him, and as one of the authorities,” Cleaver, the former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said on Wednesday. “He later said that he didn’t know about Murray’s background … which suggests ignorance. And so if you know the least, you shouldn’t speak the loudest, and that got him into trouble.”
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), co-chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus Poverty and Economy Task Force, also has condemned Ryan's remarks as “deeply offensive" racial attacks.
"My colleague Congressman Ryan's comments about 'inner city' poverty are a thinly veiled racial attack and cannot be tolerated," Lee said in an email to reporters in March. "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.'"
Ryan later admitted his comments were "inarticulate," but insisted he "was not implicating the culture of one community -- but of society as a whole."
Ryan is scheduled to meet with the Congressional Black Caucus next week to address his controversial comments in the larger discussion on the war on poverty.
Congressional Democrats have also criticized Ryan’s 2014 budget resolution for its potentially adverse effects on low-income families and minorities.
"To the extent that people of color are disproportionately poor, it would have a particularly chilling impact on them," Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), a Congressional Black Caucus member, told reporters during a conference call Wednesday.