Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Paul Ryan's Black Ex-Girlfriend: What Does It Mean to Election 2012?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Paul Ryan's Black Ex-Girlfriend: What Does It Mean to Election 2012?

Article excerpt

Presumptive vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryans recently unearthed comment from 2005 that he had a black girlfriend in college has put a new twist in the race for the White House, inviting comparisons with recent revelations about how President Obama has portrayed the importance of his own interracial dating years ago.

To be sure, to many Americans, Congressman Ryans college dating life is a nonstory, just as it was in Mr. Obama's case. But given that Ryan's policies are portrayed by some as being detrimental to the African-American community, the report could color impressions of his character and the proposals he espouses.

So far, Ryan hasnt made any further comments about the mystery college girlfriend, though his campaign has confirmed the report. Some college buddies reached by reporters couldnt remember a black girlfriend. But discussion has been percolating on the Internet about what the news means if anything.

ChicagoNow columnist John Chatz, who is white and is married to a black woman, says the nugget may earn Ryan new respect and another look from minority voters. But it also could become a negative in some of Chicagos most famous, all-white, intolerant neighborhoods.

Political pundits may wonder how Ryan will use this relationship to advance himself or to make himself more credible, writes Mr. Chatz. Ryan is now placing himself way beyond the I have black friends category and entering a world where few would dare to tread.

It was Keli Goss, a political reporter with the black-centric The Root website, whose essay, Does Paul Ryans black ex-girlfriend matter? set off the debate after CNNs Peter Hamby tweeted the news.

In essence, Ms. Goff writes that having personal interracial relationships doesnt automatically disqualify politicians like Ryan from being bigots. The NAACP, for example, says Ryan's fiscal policies could hurt poor blacks if he and presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney are elected. …

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