Real Time host Bill Maher went to bat to a degree for Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) by comparing his recently-criticized remarks about “inner city men” to an excerpt from a May 2013 speech by First Lady Michelle Obama.
Maher — who noted the “hushed silence” from the crowd regarding Obama’s remarks — specifically quoted from her commencement speech at Bowie State University, in which she said too many young Black people “can’t be bothered” to get a job.
“Instead of walking miles every day to school, they’re sitting on couches for hours playing video games, watching TV,” she said at the time. “Instead of dreaming of being a teacher or a lawyer or a business leader, they’re fantasizing about being a baller or a rapper.”
“I just read this, and you thought it was Paul Ryan,” Maher told comedian W. Kamau Bell.
“Because you told me it was,” Bell replied.
“For a reason,” Maher said. “I’m just asking: Is something less true if a white person says it about black people?”
Maher then said it sounded like Obama agreed with Ryan.
“This sounds even more like, ‘Hey Black people, don’t be lazy,’” Maher said.
“She’s talking to Black people,” Bell retorted. “We talk to each other differently than we talk to you.”
But Ryan, Center for American Progress president Neera Tanden told Maher, was blaming the Black and Latino communities for their problems.
“When you look at his budget, what does his budget do?” Tanden said. “Cuts all the programs in these communities — programs that have helped create jobs — and takes it and, until now, his budget has given massive tax cuts to the wealthy.”
Former Rep. Rick Lazio (R-NY) then accused Democrats of squandering the chance to ameliorate the problems when they were in charge of “most of these inner cities,” on top of having a sitting Democratic president in office and a recent majority in Congress.
“They don’t vote,” Maher said of city voters. “They don’t think it makes a difference.”
“Paul Ryan, I would say, made an awkward statement,” Lazio said, as Tanden looked on in apparent disbelief. “At least that guy’s out there talking about poverty. And what happens when Republicans or conservatives pop their head up and start talking about poverty, is that they get smacked down and called a racist.”
“You blame the people,” Tanden said.
“You are not gonna find a solution to these poverty issues and income mobility if you just do it with one party,” Lazio said. “You need both parties.”
“Absolutely,” she replied. “And let’s not blame the people who are poor. Let’s unite around solutions, and not just blame people.”