(CNN) — House Speaker Paul Ryan called the pictures of violent skirmishes at Donald Trump’s campaign rallies “very concerning” and said in a radio interview on Monday that candidates need to “take responsibility for the environment at their rallies.”
Ryan, who remains neutral in the 2016 GOP presidential contest, told WRJN, a station in his home state of Wisconsin, that he watched some of the coverage of Trump rallies on television over the weekend, and after paying his respects last week in California where former first lady Nancy Reagan was lying in state, and he said he saw a sharp contrast in tone with the Reagan era.
While he said he believed there was an effort by “some on the left to shut down these rallies and to stir unrest,” Ryan delivered a strong message, saying, “there is never an excuse for condoning violence, or even a culture that presupposes it.”
He added, “America has been the gold standard of democracy for so long, and I think our candidates have an obligation to honor that tradition.”
Trump canceled a rally in Chicago on Friday after clashes broke out between protesters and supporters of the billionaire businessman were waiting for the event to start.
Ryan usually avoids weighing in on the 2016 race, citing his role chairing the party’s convention this summer, but decided he needed to send a message similar to the one other GOP candidates and party leaders are delivering about the increasingly tense political debate. “People are angry. People have looked at the last seven years, and they are understandably very anxious, very upset, and hurting,” he said. “But the solution isn’t to call names. It isn’t to stoke anger for political gain.”
Trump told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday that supporters of Bernie Sanders’ campaign were to blame and that he “should get credit, not be scorned” for his decision to call off the event in Chicago and head off a potentially dangerous situation.
Without naming Trump in the radio interview, Ryan made it clear he wanted him to tone down his rhetoric, saying, “I think the candidates have an obligation to do everything they can to prevent this from happening and to tamp down on any temptation to get this out of control.”
The speaker also urged Democratic and Republican candidates to present their own policy prescriptions for addressing conditions in the country they want changed, saying they need to “channel the anger into positive solutions.”
Ryan has spoken to all four GOP presidential candidates recently about his effort with House Republicans to craft a detailed policy agenda for the 2016 nominee to use to contrast with the Democrats’ message during the general election.