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Paul Ryan admits Trump “messed up” Charlottesville during town hall, refuses to censure the president

House Speaker Paul Ryan faced his constituents Monday after a disastrous year for Republicans in Congress and in the White House. Instead of touting new health care legislation, or the fine leadership demonstrated by President Trump, Ryan was mostly on the defense during his highly-anticipated town hall in Racine, Wisconsin.

Hosted by CNN’s Jake Tapper, the questions were pre-screened, but that didn’t mean Ryan didn’t have to comment on the inauspicious developments of the Trump era.

“I do believe that he messed up in his comments on Tuesday when it sounded like a moral equivocation or at the very least moral ambiguity when we need extreme moral clarity,” Ryan said of Trump’s remarks on the white nationalist protests in Charlottesville, Virginia. “You’re not a good person if you’re there, it’s so very clear.”

One member of the audience asked Ryan if the U.S. House was prepared to censure Trump for his abhorrent response.

“If we descend this issue into some partisan hack-fest, into some bickering against each other and demean it down into some political food fight, what good does that do to unify this country?” Ryan said, adding that censuring Trump would be the “worst thing we could do.”

Ryan did concede that Trump’s social media habits did more harm than good.

“Do I wish there would be a little less tweeting? Of course I do,” he said.

The start of the town hall was delayed 30 minutes to accommodate Trump’s spur-of-the-moment speech on the Afghanistan War. Ryan applauded Trump’s statements ushering in a new strategy for the war. The president was mostly ambiguous about his plans in Afghanistan, but that seemed to please the House Speaker.

“If they believe if we have an end date, some timetable, they will wait us out,” Ryan said, although he failed to say where the Afghani people would go if there were no timetable.

Ryan also addressed Wisconsin’s much maligned Foxconn deal in which the global electronics giant is set to build a plant thanks to a $3 billion tax incentive package. Ryan said the plant will create thousands of jobs and was an “exceptional deal.”

This article originally appeared on salon.

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