Paul Ryan nails Trump over response to Charlottesville: 'He messed up ... it was wrong'

House Speaker Paul Ryan had sharp criticism for President Donald Trump on Monday night when asked about President Donald Trump's handling of a white nationalist rally that turned deadly in Charlottesville, Virginia, earlier this month.

In an answer to a question from the audience, Ryan dinged Trump's response during a CNN town-hall event in Ryan's Wisconsin congressional district. He called Trump's August 14 speech, in which the president denounced white supremacist groups by name, "pitch-perfect." Trump condemned the hate groups after two days of withering backlash for initially blaming "many sides" for the violence that left one counterprotester dead.

Ryan said Trump's reversal just 24 hours later — a press conference during which he said there were "very fine people" among the neo-Nazis and white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville — was problematic.

RELATED: A look back at Charlottesville

19 PHOTOS
White nationalist protesters lead 'Nazi-esque' rally in Charlottesville
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White nationalist protesters lead 'Nazi-esque' rally in Charlottesville
Riot police protect members of the Ku Klux Klan from counter-protesters as they arrive to rally in opposition to city proposals to remove or make changes to Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Members of the Ku Klux Klan rally in support of Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Protesters direct obscene gestures towards members of the Ku Klux Klan, who are rallying in support of Confederate monuments, in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TEMPLATE OUT
Counter-protesters shout at members of the Ku Klux Klan, who are rallying in opposition to city proposals to remove or make changes to Confederate monuments, in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TEMPLATE OUT
Members of the Ku Klux Klan face counter-protesters as they rally in support of Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Members of the Ku Klux Klan rally in opposition to city proposals to remove or make changes to Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
A counter-protester is detained as members of the Ku Klux Klan rally in opposition to city proposals to remove or make changes to Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Police detain a counter-protester during the aftermath of a rally by members of the Ku Klux Klan in support of Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Counter-protesters lock arms in the middle of a street as police try to disperse them, after members of the Ku Klux Klan rallied in support of Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Police, clergy and free speech observers protect a man wearing a Confederate flag as a cape after he was surrounded by counter-protesters prior to the arrival of members of the Ku Klux Klan to rally in opposition to city proposals to remove or make changes to Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Members of the Ku Klux Klan rally in opposition to city proposals to remove or make changes to Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Counter-protesters help a man affected by pepper gas as police try to disperse them, after members of the Ku Klux Klan rallied in support of Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Police, clergy and free speech observers protect a man wearing a Confederate flag as a cape after he was surrounded by counter-protesters prior to the arrival of members of the Ku Klux Klan to rally in opposition to city proposals to remove or make changes Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Riot police protect members of the Ku Klux Klan from counter-protesters as they arrive to rally in opposition to city proposals to remove or make changes to Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TEMPLATE OUT
Counter-protesters lock arms in the middle of a street as police try to disperse them, after members of the Ku Klux Klan rallied in support of Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Members of the Ku Klux Klan rally in opposition to city proposals to remove or make changes to Confederate monuments, such as the statue of General Stonewall Jackson above them, in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Members of the Ku Klux Klan, standing near a tomato and and an orange that had been thrown at them by counter-protesters, hold a sign as they rally in support of Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
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"He made comments that were much more morally ambiguous, much more confusing," Ryan said. "And I do think he could've done better. I think he needed to do better."

CNN host Jake Tapper took exception to Ryan's assertions that Trump's comments there were morally ambiguous.

The issue, Tapper said, is "the reluctance to criticize President Trump for specifically saying things like, 'Very fine people were marching' in that rally that had swastikas and anti-Semitic chants, and there were not any very fine people in that rally."

"And it wasn't morally ambiguous, it was morally wrong, what the president said." Tapper said.

Ryan subsequently agreed.

"It was not only morally ambiguous, it was equivocating, and that was wrong," he said. When asked if what Trump has done to denounce racism, anti-Semitism and hate groups was enough, Ryan said simply, "I don't think any of us have done enough. I think we all have a lot more to do."

Ryan said later, however, that he would not support a censure resolution in the House — a formal rebuke — of Trump for his comments. He said that would turn the issue into a "partisan hack-fest."

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