Lauer Accuses Ryan of Dodging Town Hall Meetings

In the second part of this live interview with House Speaker Paul Ryan on Tuesday’s NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer suggested that the Republican leader did not hold a town hall meeting in his home district of Wisconsin to avoid left-wing protesters who may flood the event: “...you didn't hold a town hall meeting when you were home, did you?...Did you not this particular time because of what's been happening to some Republican members of Congress?”

Ryan pushed back with facts that disproved Lauer’s assertion: “No, I had some other plans. Actually, I went to the border, to the Rio Grande, to go visit with the Border Patrol to talk about what kind of assets they needed. So I did some other things that I had planned long ago.”

After having his accusation shot down, Lauer decided to change tactics and grill Ryan over a comment Donald Trump made about the town halls: “In an interview this morning, the President was asked by another network if he thought that President Obama was responsible for the organizing of some of the protests we’ve seen at town halls across the country for Republican members of Congress, and he said, ‘Yes, I do think President Obama is responsible.’ Would you agree with that?”

Ryan replied: “Well, I believe ObamaCare was responsible for it. So if you’re asking, did he give us a health care law that screwed up and ruined the health care system, yes, I’ll give you – ” Lauer interrupted: “I don’t believe that’s what he was saying....I think he was saying that he’s now behind the scenes organizing protests.”

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The Speaker dismissed the controversy as “white noise” and explained: “What I’m focused on here is doing my job and making sure that Congress works, making sure that we solve people’s problems....That's what I'm focused on. I’m not focused on the white noise and the distractions of the day...”

Wrapping up the exchange, Lauer wondered “what kind of reception” Trump would get during his first address to a joint session of Congress that evening. Ryan issued a warning to his liberal colleagues: “...we always try to make sure that everyone gets a respectful reception. We did this with Obama. Even if Democrats don't agree or like what Donald Trump’s saying or doing as president, we expect respect. It is a place of decorum.”  

In part one of the interview, Lauer refused to accept Ryan’s observation that ObamaCare was “collapsing under its own weight.”    

     

Here is a transcript of the February 28 exchange:

7:34 AM ET

(...)

MATT LAUER: You have to be able – and you’ve said this to me – to get rid of the white noise.

PAUL RYAN: That’s right.

LAUER: You’ve got to be able to put the noise of Washington and a lot of the headlines aside to do your job. You went home to Wisconsin just a week or so ago.

RYAN: Well, I was home this weekend.

LAUER: Yeah, right. And you didn't hold a town hall meeting when you were home, did you?

RYAN: No, but I do quite a few of those. I just didn't this particular time.

LAUER: Did you not this particular time because of what's been happening to some Republican members of Congress?

RYAN: No, I some other plans. Actually, I went to the border, to the Rio Grande, to go visit with the Border Patrol to talk about what kind of assets they needed. So I did some other things that I had planned long ago.

LAUER: In an interview this morning, the President was asked by another network if he thought that President Obama was responsible for the organizing of some of the protests we’ve seen at town halls across the country for Republican members of Congress, and he said, “Yes, I do think President Obama is responsible.” Would you agree with that?

RYAN: Well, I believe ObamaCare was responsible for it. So if you’re asking, did he give us a health care law that screwed up and ruined the health care system, yes, I’ll give you –

LAUER: I don’t believe that’s what he was saying.         

RYAN: Well, that’s my answer.

LAUER: I think he was saying that he’s now behind the scenes organizing protests.

RYAN: Oh, yeah, I have no knowledge of such a thing. I have no clue. There’s the white noise that I’m talking about. What I’m focused on here is doing my job and making sure that Congress works, making sure that we solve people’s problems. We have been entrusted by the people of this country to fix problems. That's what I'm focused on. I’m not focused on the white noise and the distractions of the day, but on getting things done to improve people's lives and make good on the promises we made while we campaigned. We campaigned on an agenda to fix problems, now we’ve got to deliver.

LAUER: I look down this hallway right now and at the end of that hallway are the doors to the House chamber. You’re the guy who actually invited the President, it’s your – in your official capacity, to speak to the joint session tonight. What kind of reception do you expect him to get in that room?

RYAN: I think he’ll get a – we always try to make sure that everyone gets a respectful reception. We did this with Obama. Even if Democrats don't agree or like what Donald Trump’s saying or doing as president, we expect respect. It is a place of decorum. What I’m hoping and I believe we're going to hear from the President is inspiration, is let's go fix problems. We ran on solutions. We need to deliver for the American people. And I think it’s going to be a speech that speaks to all Americans, inclusive, everybody.  

LAUER: Have you seen it?

RYAN: I’ve seen parts of it. And what I saw, I liked a lot. Because we’ve big problems to fix in this country and if we don't tackle our problems in America soon, they will tackle us. And we have to do this together as all Americans. And that's the kind of tone and temperament that I'm accepting from tonight's speech.

(...)

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