Gov. Scott Walker wouldn’t clarify his views on evolution in a call from London with Wisconsin reporters on Thursday.
Asked whether he supports the teaching of evolution or creationism or both in public schools, Walker did not answer, as he did after a speech Wednesday at Chatham House, a London international affairs think tank.
“I’m on a trip focused on trade and investment so while I’m on this trip, since that’s my purpose, that’s what I’m focused on,” Walker said.
Walker issued a statement through his campaign on Wednesday seeking to clarify his position on the topic: “Both science and my faith dictate my belief that we are created by God. I believe faith and science are compatible, and go hand in hand.”
Pressed on Thursday to clarify his position, he said, “I’m just pointing out that in four years, it wasn’t important enough for you or anyone else on the call to ask. I’ll let the campaign statement speak for itself.”
Asked about it again, he said: “The fascination about the question proves the point I made at Chatham House. The media tends to be distracted by issues that aren’t issues of the day.”
The top Democratic leader in the state Assembly called Walker’s response to questions about evolution “embarrassing.”
“I shouldn’t be surprised anymore, but I still was surprised that he had such a difficult time answering such a simple question,” said Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha. “It’s not an unusual question for somebody that is governor, much less somebody that wants to hold the most powerful position in the world.
“So it’s very striking and frankly embarrassing that our governor could not answer that question,” Barca said.
Barca said he believes in evolution and, “I believe evolution should be taught in our schools.”
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, quickly answered “I do” when asked during a brief exchange with reporters Thursday whether he believes in evolution. But Vos said “it’s not up to me” whether Walker should have answered the question.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers said the teaching of evolution has not been an issue in Wisconsin since Walker took office.
“The first time I saw it come up was yesterday, from England,” Evers said.
The issue of teaching in public schools how humans and other species came to be has cropped up in some states over the past decade.
Tennessee and Louisiana passed laws making it easier for science teachers to present alternative theories to Charles Darwin’s widely accepted theory that modern species developed over millions of years through a process of natural selection.
A recent Pew Research Center poll found 65 percent of the public and 98 percent of scientists believe humans evolved over time.
Walker, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, wraps up a weeklong trade mission to the United Kingdom on Friday.
During the call, Walker laid out the highlights of his trip, including visits Monday to a veterans hospital and a cemetery where soldiers from Wisconsin are buried, a meeting Tuesday with Prime Minister David Cameron with whom Walker talked about his 2014 re-election campaign strategy, a Wednesday breakfast with Wisconsin alumni, visits to various companies with Wisconsin connections, and the Chatham House speech.
Reporter Dee J. Hall contributed to this report.