Paul Ryan’s attempted photo-op at a Youngstown, Ohio soup kitchen has blown up in the vice presidential nominee’s face, after the charity’s president publicly criticized Ryan for barging in without permission and re-washing clean pots and pans for the cameras.
Brian J. Antal, the president of the Mahoning County St. Vincent De Paul Society, told The Washington Post‘s Felicia Sonmez that the Romney campaign “ramrodded their way” into the soup kitchen without permission, to set up the photo-op.
“We’re a faith-based organization; we are apolitical because the majority of our funding is from private donations,” Antal told the Post. “It’s strictly in our bylaws not to do it. They showed up there, and they did not have permission. They got one of the volunteers to open up the doors.”
Once inside, Ryan and his family set up in the kitchen. Explaining that they once spent a summer washing dishes, Ryan began scrubbing and rinsing pans that were clearly already clean.
“The photo-op they did wasn’t even accurate,” Antal added. “He did nothing. He just came in here to get his picture taken at the dining hall.”
Video of the charity visit is below:
The video quickly went viral, perhaps because the spectacle of Ryan pretending to wash dishes serves as such a tidy metaphor for the Romney-Ryan campaign’s empty promises to the Americans they privately deride as “takers” and “victims.”
Besides the obvious ridiculousness of Ryan’s stunt, there’s a broader point about Ryan’s position on charities such as the Youngstown soup kitchen. Although Ryan claims that charities and churches should “take care of people who are down and out in our communities” instead of the government, Ryan’s extreme right-wing budget would actually decimate their ability to do so. Many faith-based charities rely on federal funding to operate, and Ryan’s budget would instantly overburden charities by slashing the budget for welfare, food stamps, and other critical programs that help to keep working families afloat.
Additionally, Ryan and his wife Janna’s tax returns show that they donated 4 percent of their income to charity in 2011 and just 1.2 percent in 2010 — hardly suggesting that supporting those in need is among their highest priorities.
If Ryan is looking for advice for how to overcome an embarrassing incident at a charity, perhaps he should ask his running mate Mitt Romney. During his 1994 Senate campaign, when the director of a homeless shelter in Boston told Romney that he struggled to pay for milk to go along with the homeless veterans’ meals, Romney dismissively replied “maybe you can teach the vets to milk cows.”
To make up for the insensitive remark, Romney anonymously paid for half of the shelter’s milk for the next several years.
UPDATE: Antal now says that his comment that Ryan “did nothing” was mischaracterized, and that — while Ryan did little work compared to the rest of the volunteers that morning — he did wash dirty dishes. In the video above, however, the pans do appear to be clean before Ryan begins washing them.