House Speaker discovers Jewish roots

PBS show finds Paul Ryan is 3 percent Ashkenazi Jewish. He was reportedly proud of the discovery.

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Paul Ryan
Paul Ryan

House Speaker Paul Ryan found out he has Jewish roots while filming a segment for the upcoming season of the PBS series "Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates Jr."

Gates said Tuesday at a TV critics meeting, according to The Associated Press, that he traced Ryan's heritage back to his 10th great-grandfather born in 1531 in Germany. The research showed Ryan is 3 percent Ashkenazi Jewish.

"You could have knocked him over with a feather and then he was very proud of it," Gates said of Ryan's reaction.

Also featured on the show's fifth season debuting in January is Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI).

Gates said he chose Ryan because he was fascinated by him and not his politics. He picked Rubio because he wanted to include a Cuban and Gabbard because of her Pacific ancestry.

He explained his purpose in doing the show is to deconstruct race and show how racism manifests itself in the current anti-immigrant feeling in the United States.

Meanwhile, Ryan’s press secretary AshLee Strong on Tuesday responded to jokes on social media that he could be considered the first Jewish speaker of the House of Representatives after the discovery of his Jewish ancestors.

"Breaking," Strong quipped on Twitter about her boss.

The genealogical discovery has very little religious significance since a person is only considered Jewish if they are born to a Jewish mother or they formally convert to Judaism.

Ryan announced in April that he will not seek another term in Congress and will step down in November.

Ryan clashed with then-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. He initially said he was not “ready to support” Trump as the Republican presidential candidate, before ultimately endorsing him.

The Speaker was still critical of Trump at times, notably distancing himself from Trump after leaked video tapes surfaced, showing him making graphic comments about women.

Jewish roots or not, Ryan is a strong supporter of Israel. He also spoke out against the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers signed by President Barack Obama. Trump in May left the deal.