Elena Serrano, 7, second right, eats an ice cream sandwich during lunch at the Four Seasons Elementary School in St. Paul, Minn., June 29, 2006.
Eric Miller/AP Photo

Kingston: ‘I never did say ‘poor kids”

Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) create a stir this week when he suggested struggling children should pay more for food – or tackle janitorial tasks in their schools. It’s only fair, then, to note that he now has a response to the controversy.
To briefly recap, Amanda Terkel originally reported that Kingston, a U.S. Senate candidate, was speaking at a Republican event when he mentioned an idea he shared with the Secretary of Agriculture: “Why don’t you have the kids pay a dime, pay a nickel to instill in them that there is, in fact, no such thing as a free lunch? Or maybe sweep the floor of the cafeteria? … [T]hink what we would gain as a society in getting people – getting the myth out of their head that there is such a thing as a free lunch.”
This morning, Kingston defended the remarks.
Kingston said on CNN’s “New Day” that his comments were not targeted at a particular economic group, and he just wanted to discuss how to promote a strong work ethic for children.
“This was not an indictment on anybody in a particular socioeconomic group,” Kingston said. “This would be good for all children.”
“I never did say ‘poor kids,’ ” he added.
It’s true that Kingston didn’t literally use the phrase “poor kids.” The congressman did, however, specifically reference children who take advantage of the free school-lunch program. In Kingston’s mind, what’s the socio-economic status of the kids who participate?
Soon after, the Georgia Republican sent out a letter to supporters, saying, “Democrats and the left wing media have been ridiculing me for having the audacity to float the idea that children could benefit from being given chores at school.”
For the record, Kingston appears to be deeply confused about the nature of the controversy he created. If he’d merely suggested school chores for kids, no one would have noticed or cared. What the congressman actually said – on camera – is that he wants children to pay more for food, either through cash or through some kind of work program.