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Ryan: Not placing hand on heart for anthem wasn’t protest

Posted: 12:13 PM, Jul 31, 2019
Updated: 2019-07-31 12:13:20-04

Democratic presidential hopefuls (L-R) US author and writer Marianne Williamson, US Representative for Ohio’s 13th congressional district Tim Ryan, US Senator from Minnesota Amy Klobuchar, Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg, US senator from Vermont Bernie Sanders, US Senator from Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren, US Representative for Texas’ 16th congressional district Beto O’Rourke, Former Governor of Colorado John Hickenlooper, former US Representative for Maryland’s 6th congressional district John Delaney and Governor of Montana Steve Bullock stand onstage as the national anthem is sung ahead of the first round of the second Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season hosted by CNN at the Fox Theatre in Detroit, Michigan on July 30, 2019. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

DETROIT (AP) — Democrat Tim Ryan said Wednesday he didn’t put his hand over his heart when the national anthem was played at the presidential debate because of “absent-mindedness,” not as a sign of protest.

The Ohio congressman was the only one of the 10 candidates at the Detroit debate not to place a hand over their heart during “The Star-Spangled Banner” Tuesday night.

Ryan stood with his hands clasped in front.

Critics called Ryan out on social media, saying he was disrespectful and questioning whether it was a protest similar to former NFL player Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling during the anthem.

“The View” host Meghan McCain, daughter of war hero and late Sen. John McCain, tweeted “Put your hand over your heart for the star spangled banner Tim Ryan!!!”

Ari Fleischer, White House press secretary under Republican President George W. Bush, said in a tweet “I guess he’s appealing to the Kaepernick wing of the Democratic Party.”

Ryan’s campaign said in a statement he wasn’t protesting and “didn’t mean to make any statement.”

The campaign called it “a moment of absent-mindedness while on a debate stage that won’t happen again.”

“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 campaign said.