By Julissa Catalan
As debate continued over controversial remarks by Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), FOX News host Bill O’Reilly antagonized one Ryan opponent, calling her a “race hustler.”
Ryan made his controversial remarks on Bill Bennett’sMorning in America radio show last week, when he answered a question regarding the “fatherless problem” in poor neighborhoods. Ryan said, “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.”
Fellow U.S. Representative Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), who is Black, rebutted, “My colleague Congressman Ryan’s comments about ‘inner city’ poverty are a thinly veiled racial attack and cannot be tolerated. Let’s be clear: When Mr. Ryan says ‘inner city,’ when he says ‘culture,’ these are simply code words for what he really’Black.’
“Instead of demonizing ‘culture’ and blaming Black men for their poverty, Mr. Ryan should step up and produce some legitimate proposals on how to tackle poverty and racial discrimination in America. His uninformed policy proposals continue to increase poverty, not solve it.”
Ryan maintains that he was referring to poor communities, not Black men specifically.
Appearing on The O’Reilly Factor, Ryan reasserted his stance during his interview, saying Lee is a long-time colleague and he harbors no bad feelings toward her. He also said he understands that “if you challenge the status quo, sometimes you’ll be misinterpreted.”
O’Reilly, on the other hand, did not agree with Ryan’s outlook, calling Lee a “race hustler” and suggesting, “‘They’ get voted into office by portraying their constituents as victims.
“And it’s all your fault and it’s my fault and it’s rich people’s fault and the Republicans’ fault. It’s everybody’s fault except what’s going on. … The race hustlers don’t want to solve the problem.”
Shortly after, Lee released the following statement in response to O’Reilly’s attack:
“Unfortunately we’ve come to expect language like ‘welfare queens,’ ‘food stamp president,’ and now ‘race hustlers’ from the right wing and Mr. O’Reilly. It is disgusting and divisive and should never be accepted in our national discourse.
“For us to achieve the American dream for all, we must engage in this conversation that has been sparked about race and poverty, even if it is difficult for some. Racial discrimination, poverty and income inequality remain issues that must be debated and addressed, and these kinds of ‘code words’ only get in the way of solving the real problems.
“As members of Congress, we must come together to present a budget and funding priorities that create opportunity for all. We must make critical investments in job creation, education and job training. Among many issues, we must address extending unemployment insurance, raising the minimum wage, enacting criminal-justice reform, and securing voting rights for communities of color, so that we can truly find solutions to these critical issues.”