It started innocently enough with a picture of the nice Catholic boy, VP candidate Paul Ryan, washing a pot at a soup kitchen in Youngstown, Ohio. Right on cue, the squirrel-chasers in the media blew it up into “gate” status. Benghazi-schmenghazi. Paul Ryan may or may not have washed a pot that wasn’t really, really dirty.
Twitchy reported on Monday that Washington Post reporter Felicia Sonmez tweeted the urgent, breaking news that the metal pans Ryan was scrubbing “appeared to be mostly clean.” It apparently never crossed the domestic reporter’s mind that at some point in the pan-scrubbing process, all pans cross the threshold from “mostly dirty” to “mostly clean” if you’re doing it right.
It would have been little more than the usual mainstream media silliness if it had ended there, but then the president of the Mahoning County St. Vincent De Paul Society Ryan had visited decided to weigh in. Sonmez interviewed Brian J. Antal, who claimed that the Ryan campaign “ramrodded” their way into the building for a photo op. (No mention was made of whether Ryan and his wife and children used a battering ram, a tank, or a trebuchet to gain access to the facility.) Antal said:
They showed up there, and they did not have permission. They got one of the volunteers to open up the doors. The photo-op they did wasn’t even accurate. He did nothing. He just came in here to get his picture taken at the dining hall.
Chris Maloney, Romney Ohio communications director, said that it had been their intention to highlight the work of the center:
Our campaign and Congressman Ryan were pleased to bring attention to the meaningful charitable contributions the St. Vincent De Paul Society makes to people in need.
Not to Antal, who began to pile on. He told the Youngstown Vindicator on Monday night that he was “shocked” and “angry” that Ryan used the soup kitchen for a “publicity stunt,” repeating that they “ramrodded themselves in there.”
He explained that he was being pressured by donors:
“I can’t afford to lose funding from these private individuals. If this was the Democrats, I’d have the same exact problem.” He added that the incident had caused him “all kinds of grief” and that regardless of whether Ryan had intended to serve food to patrons or wash dishes, he would not have allowed the visit to take place.” [emphasis added]
The Vindicator reported Antal has received several phone calls and emails from donors who are “not pleased” about Ryan’s visit.