Ryan Responds to National Anthem Controversy

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan’s presidential campaign attributed his failure to place his hand on his heart during the singing of the National Anthem during Tuesday night’s 2020 Democratic presidential debate to “a moment of absentmindedness.”

Ryan, D-13 Ohio, created a stir when he was the only one of the 10 candidates participating in the Detroit debate to fail to place his hand on his heart during singing of “The Star Spangled Banner” that opened the debate. At 11:17 a.m., Ryan for America released the following statement to respond to the controversy:

“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. 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.”

The slight drew swift response on Twitter. 

“Rep. Tim Ryan didn’t put his hand over his heart during the national anthem. I guess he’s appealing to the Kaepernick wing of the Democratic Party,” Ari Fleischer, press secretary for former President George W. Bush, wrote. Colin Kaepernick, a former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, protested police brutality in 2016 by kneeling during the national anthem.

“Put your hand over you heart for the Star Spangled Banner!!!” Meghan McCain, daughter of the late U.S. Sen. John McCain and a co-host of ABC’s “The View” – on which Ryan announced his candidacy earlier this year – tweeted.

After the debate, Ryan told WFMJ that he loves the country as much as anyone else. 

“I’ve been having the National Anthem played at football games. I put my hand on my heart for the Pledge of Allegiance,” he said.

John P. Brown III, a Navy Vietnam veteran and former national commander of AMVETS, said this morning that Ryan should have shown proper respect for the flag during the nation anthem. 

“I’m a Democrat and it bothered me a little bit,” he said. He has participated in several parades and children he would have thought to be to young to show proper respect put their hands over their heart as the flag went by.

According to the U.S. Code, persons other than military personnel and veterans should “stand at attention with their right hand over their heart” during the anthem either facing the American flag or, if the flag is not present, facing the music. 

A Ryan defender on Twitter said most people over the age of 50 were not taught in school to put their hands over their heart, and were instead taught to stand at attention. 

At many sporting events, people are often seen standing at attention – their hands at their sides or behind them – rather than having their hand over their heart.

Ryan is far from the only person to commit the breach in patriotic protocol. A YouTube video shows U.S. President Donald Trump apparently being prodded by his wife, Melania, an immigrant, to put his hand over his heart during the playing of the anthem at the 2017 White House Easter celebration. 

Still, the congressman’s failure to do so was lampooned last night on The Late Show, which was broadcast live on CBS. And news organizations also picked up on the oversight.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.