Couric Presses Ryan on Gun Control: ‘What Did You Think When the President Cried?’

In an interview with House Speaker Paul Ryan on Thursday, Yahoo! News anchor Katie Couric grilled the Republican leader on gun control: “Let’s talk about President Obama’s executive action on guns. What did you think when the President cried?...Were you affected by it?”

Ryan pushed back: “I didn’t really think about his crying....I was affected by it, but I thought we should have had the same kind of reaction when James Foley was beheaded, when San Bernardino and Paris occurred.” He added: “What I think he’s trying to do is distract from basically his failed policies. I think a week we can talk about gun control is a week we’re not talking about our failure to confront ISIS...”

Couric demanded Ryan put “aside” the Constitution: “And I know you vehemently oppose the President’s use of executive actions, but Constitutional issues aside, Mr. Speaker, do you still believe closing the gun show loophole is reasonable?”

She followed up: “But as you know, millions of guns are sold in this country without a background check and 33,000, an estimated 33,000 gun deaths occur in this country every year. So I’m curious, what do think should be – what do you think should be done to deal with this problem, if anything?”

Tell the Truth 2016

Couric began the sit-down by urging Ryan to compromise with Democrats: “But did you find any area of common ground with Nancy Pelosi where you might actually together make progress this year?” When he replied that he and the Democratic leader may agree on the legislative process but not on policy issues, Couric lamented: “Nothing? No common ground on any issues?...Looking ahead, are there any areas?...Any others?”

Turning to the 2016 election, she declared: “The Republican Party has lost the popular vote in five out of the last six presidential elections....by many accounts, Mr. Speaker, the GOP seems to be having a bit of an identity crisis. And what do you think the party needs to do in order to win the presidency?”

Couric also fretted over Republican legislative priorities: “Well, I know that you’re first order of business is a bill to repeal ObamaCare, which of course the President will veto. And without an alternative, doesn’t this feed into the notion that the GOP is a party of no?”

She highlighted that Ryan was set to host a summit on poverty that would be attended by several GOP presidential candidates – then immediately accused him of hypocrisy for holding such an event:

On Saturday in South Carolina, you’re hosting a forum on poverty....There might be some skepticism because you’re holding a summit on poverty, yet more than two-thirds of the cut in your own budget proposals are to government programs that help low and middle income Americans. So how do you reconcile those two things?

Here is a full list of Couric’s questions to Ryan in the January 7 exchange:

KATIE COURIC: Speaker Ryan thank you so much for doing this interview. It’s a new year, a new session of Congress and now you’re trying to turn over a new leaf. When you assumed the speakership, you promised, quote, “A complete alternative to the left’s agenda.” So, briefly, what is your agenda?

(...)

COURIC: But I know you’ve said you want to wipe the slate clean and respect the minority party. To that end, I know you’re planning to break bread with President Obama. Has that been scheduled by the way?...And last month you invited Nancy Pelosi to have dinner at you’re office. Steak and french fries I understand, medium rare, she ate dessert, you didn’t. That’s what we know about that....But did you find any area of common ground with Nancy Pelosi where you might actually together make progress this year?...Nothing? No common ground on any issues?...Looking ahead, are there any areas?...Any others?

(...)

COURIC: The Republican Party has lost the popular vote in five out of the last six presidential elections. Sorry to remind you. But by many accounts, Mr. Speaker, the GOP seems to be having a bit of an identity crisis. And what do you think the party needs to do in order to win the presidency?

(...)

COURIC: Well, I know that you’re first order of business is a bill to repeal ObamaCare, which of course the President will veto. And without an alternative, doesn’t this feed into the notion that the GOP is a party of no?...Why wouldn’t you do that first?

(...)

COURIC: A recent survey in Wisconsin from August of 2015 found that the uninsured rate in that state went from 11.7% in 2013 to 5.6% last year....So do you believe that what you’ve done as a state is responsible for this lower rate of uninsured Americans?

(...)

COURIC: And you’ll be working on an alternative?

(...)

COURIC: Do feel the GOP failed in doing that previously? That it wasn’t enough of a proposition party? It was too much of an opposition party?...But I just mean in general, do you feel like?

(...)

COURIC: On Saturday in South Carolina, you’re hosting a forum on poverty. After you and Governor Romney lost the election I know that you spent a lot of time touring this country learning more about the issue. So what motivated you to hold this summit?

(...)

COURIC: There might be some skepticism because you’re holding a summit on poverty, yet more than two-thirds of the cut in your own budget proposals are to government programs that help low and middle income Americans. So how do you reconcile those two things?...But if you want to reallocate the funds and use them differently, is that hard to do when you take two-thirds of them away?

(...)

COURIC: You’ve invited all the GOP candidates to your forum in South Carolina. Six are coming, but not Donald Trump? Are you disappointed?

(...)

COURIC: Do you think that Donald Trump is good for the Republican Party?...I know that Politico has reported that Mitt Romney is – has been expressing frustration about Trump’s position in the polls. He’s worried that he could inflict lasting damage on the Party’s brand....So are you saying do disagree with Mitt Romney?...But isn’t one of your primary jobs is to be the leader, defacto leader of the Republican Party?

(...)

COURIC: Let’s talk about President Obama’s executive action on guns. What did you think when the President cried?...Were you affected by it?

(...)

COURIC: As recently as 2013 you said that conducting background checks at gun shows, keeping guns away from the wrong people, is reasonable. And I know you vehemently oppose the President’s use of executive actions, but Constitutional issues aside, Mr. Speaker, do you still believe closing the gun show loophole is reasonable?...But if you’re selling at gun shows or privately online?


(...)

COURIC: But as you know, millions of guns are sold in this country without a background check and 33,000, an estimated 33,000 gun deaths occur in this country every year. So I’m curious, what do think should be – what do you think should be done to deal with this problem, if anything?

(...)

COURIC: Shouldn’t he [President Obama] have the bandwidth to deal with both issues [gun control and fighting ISIS]? And let me go back to my original question....let me go back to my original question, though, if I could, Mr. Speaker, what would you do to deal with the 33,000 deaths – gun deaths in this country every year? What about the millions of people – can I just interject two seconds?....Do you think background checks do that for law-abiding citizens?

(...)

COURIC: I think they [the Supreme Court] also said it [the Second Amendment] wasn’t unrestricted, though. And you know – in that Supreme Court decision.

(...)

COURIC: And do you believe background checks infringe upon law-abiding citizens?...But more background checks or you know?...So you have no problem with background checks per se?

(...)

COURIC: It’s, I know, President Obama’s final State of the Union on Tuesday. What do you think Barack Obama’s legacy will be?

(...)

COURIC: Do you think the country would be better off with a President Trump or a President Cruz?...Really?...And so you’d be totally comfortable with a President Donald Trump?    

(...)

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is the Senior News Analyst for MRC