Democratic presidential candidate Tim Ryan’s campaign said Wednesday the Ohio congressman was not protesting when he didn’t put his hand over his heart during the national anthem at Tuesday’s CNN debate in Detroit, chalking up the decision to a “moment of absentmindedness.”
Ryan was the only candidate of the 10 on stage to not place his right hand over his heart while the anthem was being played, as is customary. Instead, Ryan kept his hands clasped in front of him for the duration of the song.
“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,” the campaign said in a statement released Wednesday morning.
Protests of the anthem have drawn attention in recent years. In 2016, then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the song as a way to draw attention to police brutality against African-Americans. Since then, others athletes have mirrored his actions, leading to rebukes from conservatives and President Donald Trump.
In the statement, the campaign said Ryan was singing along with the Perfecting Church Choir and Pastor Marvin Winans as they performed the song live at the debate.
“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 statement read.
Tuesday’s debate featured Ryan and nine other Democratic candidates discussing their positions on everything from health care policy and climate change to reparations for African-Americans. The second night of CNN’s Democratic debate will take place Wednesday and will include the 10 other Democratic candidates.