Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan had social media abuzz Tuesday when he was the only candidate on stage at CNN’s Democratic primary debate in Detroit who neglected to place his hand over his heart while the National Anthem played prior to the event.
Some took to social media and wondered if the Democrat from Ohio kept his hands at his waist as an act of political protest, though Ryan insisted that wasn’t the case in a statement Wednesday. The presidential candidate, who is currently polling with less than one percent according to RealClearPolitics, said his inaction during the Star-Spangled Banner was simply a case of “absentmindedness.”
“Congressman Ryan wasn’t protesting and didn’t mean to make any statement last night in Detroit, it was a moment of absentmindedness while on a debate stage that won’t happen again,” a spokesperson for the Ryan campaign said in a statement.
“He was, in fact, singing along with the choir to honor our country. Congressman Ryan loves our country and will continue to honor the flag during the anthem in future events, as he has in countless events in the past.”
People were confused when Ryan, who has served in Congress since 2003, was the only person on stage out of the 10 candidates who didn’t perform the patriotic act.
Tim Ryan’s campaign issues a statement that he didn’t put his hand over his heart during the anthem at last night’s debate because of anything other than “absentmindedness” pic.twitter.com/WC43wTxMCA
— Emma Kinery (@EmmaKinery) July 31, 2019
Meghan McCain, the daughter of late Sen. John McCain and conservative voice on ABC’s The View, took to Twitter to demand that Ryan put his hand on his heart.
Put your hand over your heart for the star spangled banner Tim Ryan!!! #DemocraticDebate
— Meghan McCain (@MeghanMcCain) July 31, 2019
Mercedes Schlapp, who recently left her position as White House director of strategic communications for a role on the Trump re-election campaign, per The New York Times tweeted that Ryan should not run for president because of his inaction during the National Anthem.
Tim Ryan chose not to put his hand over his heart for the National Anthem. He was the only one. pic.twitter.com/wN4qwRURmx
— Eddie Zipperer (@EddieZipperer) July 31, 2019
Minus the blunder, which didn’t gain Ryan many new fans, particularly among conservatives, Ryan’s performance at the Tuesday debate was seen as lackluster at a time when he needed to increase support due to low poll numbers. CNN political analyst Chris Cillizza didn’t even mention Ryan in his list of winners and losers from the Tuesday debate.
As The Hill, notes Ryan participated in two memorable moments from the CNN debate. Ryan squabbled with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders over Sanders’ Medicare for All policy. Ryan had said that Sanders didn’t know whether the health care policy would give comprehensive insurance coverage to those who lost private insurance coverage under the policy, but Sanders was quick to quip that he “wrote the damn bill.”
In another squabble between moderate Ryan and Sanders, who is one of the most progressive candidates in the 2020 race, Ryan told Sanders he did not have to yell during a disagreement over fossil fuel industry and climate change, per The Hill.