LAKE GENEVA, Wis. — At home in his congressional district Friday, House Speaker Paul Ryan stressed the importance of civility to two groups of high school students.
The message might have been intended for his political colleagues back in Washington, however, as he repeated it in an exclusive interview with the Washington Examiner and again in response to press questions following a factory tour.
"There is a lot of incivility in America today," the Republican leader told an auditorium of Badger High School students in Lake Geneva, when asked for advice about how to succeed in life.
"There are going to be people, probably somebody sitting to your left or your right, that may not agree with you on something," he said. "They are not bad people. They just probably disagree with you sometimes."
Ryan's admonishment follows months of partisan acrimony, including the past week's heated exchanges between Republicans and Democrats over President Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey.
The wrangling reached a crescendo Friday after a series of Trump tweets that critics portrayed as threats directed against Comey and the press.
Ryan told the students that they — like Washington's politicians — "need to treat people civilly ... need to respect other people's opinions and, oh, by the way, when we do that and we are going to debate someone that we don't agree with, don't use emotion."
He admitted, to laughter from students and teachers, that he avoids social media and "I try not to look at Twitter too often these days, to be honest with you."
He repeated that message to students from Delavan-Darien and Big Foot high schools who participate in a "BizTank" apprenticeship program at Prestige Paints, a subsidiary of Geneva Supply, in Delavan.
In a press conference afterward, reporters asked about Trump's latest angry tweets concerning Comey and media coverage of his administration. "I decided I'm not going to comment on the tweets of the day, or of the hour," Ryan replied. "I haven't seen them all, to be candid with you."
In the Washington Examiner interview, he said the day's theme "is kind of the message I try to give everywhere I go, especially to young people."
"It is pretty raw in the country," he said, adding that last year's tough presidential campaign strained relations across the country.
"What can I do? Try to be civil myself," he said.