Paul Ryan Decries Tribalism as His Super-PAC Spreads It

A Republican leader’s crocodile tears.

House Speaker Paul Ryan lamented the increasingly personal tone of American politics at a National Press Club event Monday. “I worry about this a lot,” he said. “The incentive in politics is invective; it’s outrage; it’s hysteria.”

He ought to know. Ryan’s super-PAC, the Congressional Leadership Fund, has spent the run-up to the 2018 midterm elections churning out attack ads—some featuring barely disguised racism—that rely on those exact ingredients. 

In his statement, Ryan blamed social media and cable news for our tribalized politics, but for another source, he need look no further than the CLF tweets below.

One especially transparent set of CLF attack ads targets Antonio Delgado, the Democratic House candidate for New York’s 19th District, painting him as a “big-city rapper” who “gave voice to extreme New York City values.” One ad features decade-old photos of Delgado, a black man running in an overwhelmingly white swing district, wearing a black hoodie. Another closes with “not our values.”

To cite Mother Jones’ Tim Murphy:

Delgado did release a rap album, in 2007, under the pseudonym AD the Voice. In a July story about his race against incumbent Republican Rep. John Faso, the New York Times reported Delgado’s songs “criticize capitalism and America’s history of racial injustice…include frequent use of a racial epithet common among black rappers, and criticize some of the founders as ‘dead presidents’ who ‘believe in white supremacy.’” It sounds a lot like the kinds of political views, in other words, you’d expect from a young, politically active black progressive.

Another CLF ad says Ohio Democrat Aftab Pureval, who is of Indian and Tibetan heritage, “can’t be trusted.” The ad accuses the candidate of “selling out Americans,” explaining that “Pureval’s lobbying firm made millions helping Libya reduce payments owed to families of Americans killed by Libyan terrorism.” Pureval did not yet work at the company at the time of that settlement, which was blessed by none other than George W. Bush.

Yet another series of ads goes after Abigail Spanberger, a Virginia Democrat running for a House seat. CLF used information obtained from an improperly released security clearance application to target Spanberger for her brief stint as a teacher at a Saudi Embassy school the ad calls “Terror High.” Spanberger went on to work as an undercover CIA operative, and spent years fighting terrorism.