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October 14, 2012

Did Ryan Campaign Fake Photo Op at Ohio Soup Kitchen, and Did Media Enable It?

After greeting and thanking a handful of volunteers from St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Canfield, Ohio — who said they typically visit the St. Vincent DePaul Society every Saturday and serve food from 10 to 11:30 a.m. — Ryan, his wife and their young children headed to the kitchen, donned white aprons and offered to clean up some dishes.

Ryan stood at the sink and took some large metal pans that did not appear to be dirty, soaped them up and rinsed them, remarking as the cameras clicked and the TV cameras rolled that he had spent a summer washing dishes when he was younger.

–via WAPO (“Reporters barred from covering Paul Ryan exchange with homeless Ohioans.“)

Looking at the pictures published by CBS, AP, NBC and the NYT, it appears as if Paul Ryan rolled up his sleeves and helped clean up  after a meal served at an Ohio soup kitchen. That’s in contrast, though, to the WAPO post which indicates Ryan not only arrived after all the homeless diners had left, but also after the kitchen was cleaned up.  Although cautiously worded, the WAPO story indicates that Ryan, with his family present and donning aprons, took already clean dishes, then soaped them up and washed them for the cameras as if he was really contributing.

Because there have been so many allegations made about the Romney/Ryan campaign and truth telling, my question is: did Ryan in fact stage his involvement in the clean up of the meal, and to what extent did the press collude with the campaign to make it appear so?

Whereas several outlets published photos of Ryan getting “hands on,” not all indicated the potential misrepresentation. Take the shot above by NBC reporter Alex Moe, for example, who published this photo to Instagram. The caption of her post is technically accurate: “Paul Ryan washes dished at soup kitchen outside Youngstown, OH.” For those who know no better, however, it gives no sense Ryan was washing clean dishes.

(click for full size)

This photo posted on the website of CBS affiliate WKBN conveys the same impression, the article even stating how Ryan “completed chores” and earned the appreciation of a local resident for his expression of caring.

Still, WAPO reporter Felicia Sonmez observed the dishes to be clean and I spoke last night with another journalist who was there who also observed them to be clean. According to the person I spoke with, the dishes Ryan was working on were already out when the photographers and reporters were ushered in but the kitchen appeared to have been cleaned, things had already been put away and the staff was ready to go home.

The AP and the NYT also published photos, the AP also supply a caption that was technically true but not true to the context.  It read:

Republican vice presidential candidate, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and his wife Janna wash pots at St. Vincent DePaul dinning hall, Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012 in Youngstown, Ohio.

The NYT, to its credit, indicated in its campaign summary, also by way of the pool reporter (who I believe was WAPO’s Sonmez) that although “the family put on aprons and washed several large pans… they did not appear to need washing…. There also was no one to serve at the soup kitchen, as breakfast had ended.”

Looking at the two photos above as well as this photo by Max Whittaker for the New York Times…

the kitchen does look quite clean. And then, there does seem to be a preponderance of cleaning liquids in the photos. Me thinks he doth clean up too much?  You might also want to take a look at two photos by AP’s Mary Altaffer.

This one right above, which pops open to 960 wide, couldn’t be more utilitarian, showing Ryan scrubbing a pot with his wife carting a big serving dish around. Also note the scrubbing pad propped conveniently at the front edge of the basin just where we can see it. The way everything is neat and neatly arranged, it’s not hard to imagine that the fix is in. Contributing to that sense is the picture below, also from Altaffer, which expands to a whopping 3980 pixels wide.  If you move around in it, you’ll see that the two pans show areas of discoloration from wear over time but not much evidence of anything else.

This story stands to offer one more blow to the integrity of this campaign, as well as the credibility of the media, particularly visual media to keep politicians honest. Of course, I  can imagine people looking at this story and  just waving a hand, saying this kind of pretend happens every day. If it does, however, it’s not like the whitewash, if that’s what’s it is, is so blatantly in of our face.

Certainly, I’d be quite interested in hearing what CBS, NBC and also AP have to say about what happened specifically in that kitchen, and in a larger context, what obligation they feel they have for calling it out as opposed to parsing captions and other background information in order to distribute potentially tainted pictures and stories with just enough deniability.

UPDATE 1 – 8:20 PST

Via shepherdcnn (Shawna Shepherd) on Instragram with the phrase: @PaulRyanVP washes a few dishes at a Catholic charity soup kitchen in OH.

UPDATE 2 - re: Shepherd diptych 8:45 PST

There is someone with a Catholic Charities t-shirt in the background of this photo at a sink although the kitchen looks otherwise spotless. From the published reports and the account I was given by a reporter on hand, the kitchen workers were ready to leave by the time Ryan started washing. What is the timeline in the diptych here? Did Ryan don the apron before or after talking to the children? And if before, which station was he using? Because this pot also looks clean besides wear marks inside on the bottom, does it further indicate Ryan was washing for show?

UPDATE 3 – 11/15

The head of the Ohio soup kitchen today strongly criticized the Ryan campaign and confirmed the photo op a sham. He also said the campaign used the sight without permission and he’s now worried the visit might jeopardize his funding.

(photos: Alex Moe/NBC via Instagram; CBS; Mary Altaffer/AP, Max Whittaker for The New York Times; Shawna Shepherd/CNN)

  • Marie

    I thought journalists were (supposed to be) extra picky about reporting the news and not creating it. A photojournalist usually will not take a posed photo – the image has to be of something really happening. So I think the answers to those questions are yes and yes. The print journalists describing the scene could have been a little more explicit about what they were doing.

    “Newsflash: Ryan and family rewashes clean pans to create a misleading photo op! Media whitewashes deception! Soup kitchen staff mystified by wet pans!”
    I just noticed that the jug of cleaner is called Sno-ee. Perhaps that product is appropriately named for a snow job?

  • black_dog_barking

    Ryan et famille pretend to help out at soup kitchen so press corps second stringers can pretend to cover another exciting day in the never-ending campaign. From this activity all involved hope to advance their careers to the next level. Good luck with that.

  • Dave McLane

    FYI, I was born in 1935 and got my Social Security card in 1939 as my mom rented me out as a child model. I continued modeling until roughly 16 mostly mostly for my father who was as a feature photographer (not news) for Acme Newspictures until 1951 and then the New York Daily News. He liked to use me as it meant he didn’t have to go into the city but could skip the commute and we’d do the setup around the house. I liked it as the pay better than delivering newspapers. In sum, what you’re seeing here is SOP: I don’t think it’s fake, it’s just the way you get an image that tells a story.

    If you see more or less the same photo by different photogs, it probably meant 1) each one got the chance so as to be in the right position or 2) they did a “pool” where one photog did the shot and shared it with the others. A clue is to compare whether multiple shots were all from the same position (pool), or each was from a different position (each by each).

    Another clue is how clean and neatly pressed are the clothes both models are wearing. I pulled KP twice when I was in the Air Force and at the end of cleanup whatever I was wearing was splashed and creased.

    Perhaps the most formidable clue is the Sno-ee bottle which “just happened” to be there where it was the main subject but position so you couldn’t miss it. Companies die for their product to appear in published news/features without them having to pay for an advert. According to my father, he and other photogs were often asked to put such items in the setup in exchange for money/gifts. The only one I saw through all of my childhood was the huge box of Mensheviks products that appeared at our house each Christmas. Since we weren’t Jewish, most all of it was fed to the birds.

    • kathy a.

      those clean, crisp aprons are a complete giveaway.

    • tinwoman

      Except there’s no story here….Ryan didn’t DO anything in a soup kitchen, anywhere, anytime. It’s a fake picture because it’s a fake campaign story–that’s the problem.

  • Glennis Waterman

    From the WAPO article: “Ryan stood at the sink and took some large metal pans that did not
    appear to be dirty, soaped them up and rinsed them, remarking as the
    cameras clicked and the TV cameras rolled that he had spent a summer
    washing dishes when he was younger.”

    So Ryan washed dishes for three months twenty years ago, which makes him an empathetic expert. Uh huh.

    Meanwhile, from the Times article, Romney remembers his time in the trenches of hard labor: “He explained “my very first assignment at my first job” as a consultant
    fresh out of Harvard Business School was to work with a local company,
    Anchor Hocking, which makes glass tableware. He recalled “standing next
    to those big glass furnaces” and learning about “triple gob machines” at
    the glassworks”

    Yep, Romney’s connection with the working man is that he once walked on the foundry floor in 1976.

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  • Stan B.

    Pretend photo ops, pretend positions, pretend policies… The Bush motto, “We make our own reality,” is Republican SOP, which should no longer shock- and so called journalists play right along, terrified they’ll no longer be allowed to play at all.

  • northierthanthou

    …and who rolls their sleeves up one time and leaves their watch on to wash dishes?

    • Leslie Young

      Good point about the watch…yeah who does that ?

    • Michael Shaw

      Nice point.

    • KeithOK

      Um … Someone who’s never washed dishes before?

    • NWLefty

      Ryan’s is a super-duper water-proof watch, because he’s an awesome athlete who might someday do a triathlon in under 3 hours.

    • Patricia

      Um, remember this one?

    • LaylaChloesNana

      Someone wearing a water-resistant watch, but not a water-resistant shirt.

  • The Chocolate Chips

    there’s nothing Romney/Ryan won’t lie about… and that the MSM won’t let them get away with lying about. “liberal media” my foot.

  • The Chocolate Chips

    there’s nothing Romney/Ryan won’t lie about… and that the MSM won’t let them get away with lying about. “liberal media” my foot.

    • LaylaChloesNana

      Oops, except it was the truth, and the media was reporting the lie of a Democrat voter.

  • Leslie Young


  • HaircutterRomney

    Mr. Marathon, Mr. 14er, Mr. P90X, Mr. 6% Body Fat, Mr. Catfish Noodler, Mr. Deer Hunter, Mr. Budget Hawk, Mr. Deficit Hawk, Mr. Arithmetic,

    now Mr. Dishwasher!!!!

  • irishdave3

    Yo forget the Malarky Kid is the fastest dishwasher in the mid West…wanna see it again? Maybe next week he will show how to “quick-draw” a bath.

  • Cactus

    Good pickups on the tells — the watch, the one-fold shirt
    sleeves, in fact, the pristine shirt and tie. My guess is most men really doing
    the job would be taking off the tie and really rolling up their sleeves. Second
    point — from what I’ve seen of restaurant kitchens — pots are soaked in the
    sink first, these apparently not.

    My guess is that Ryan not only didn’t wash dishes one summer
    long ago, but that he doesn’t even wash his own dishes at home. It’s also
    obvious that he doesn’t really ‘visit’ the St. Vincent dePaul Soc. every
    Sunday. If he did, he’d have much more familiarity with kitchen stuff. Or
    maybe he does just that — visits then leaves.

    In photo 4, the Mrs. is carrying the warming dish apparently
    out to the right, but they are all stacked on top of the shelf seen over &
    behind his head in several photos. Guess she thought it would make her look

  • Libs R. Morons

    You Libs are a real piece of work. Scrutinizing the dirt on a dish when it comes to Ryan but 4 years into Obama’s term, we still don’t know why he has a Connecticut social security number (when he never lived there) or what his college grades were. Nice work,…geez.

    • OneOfThem

      Yeah, or like how much he paid in taxes the past 6 years, oh wait…

    • Jack West

      libs r smart, college grades are not given to the public,you would know that…if you went…now about those tax returns….lmao

    • Mary Adams

      Of course Repugs can’t understand a simple typo or other mistake causing an aberration, there’s just GOT to be something sinister there…

  • Brad

    i am not a Romney/Ryan fan, however to be fair about the watch – the watch appears to be a runner’s / workout watch. Usually those are waterproof as well. I have a watch like that and I never take it off for anything – I even leave it on to shower.

    So, the watch on the arm really doesn’t indicate anything.

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  • flabbergasted

    WTF is the matter with the media in this country? THey actually help these guys do the lying?!
    If Facts are dead, then so is the USA

  • Bobbie

    White apron–spotless. All surfaces: spotless. Stacks of dishes, pots and pans: spotless. Smiling face: Give-away. FAKER!!!

  • Greystoke

    Shouldn’t this story actually be about Obama lying when he said our Benghazi consulate was attacked over a video, when it was actually an Al Qaeda attack on the anniversary of 9/11?

    • Jack West

      greystoke,no this should not be about Obama,this should and,is about another lyan ryan attempt to fool american people…… with it.

    • Mary Adams

      Neither President Obama nor any of his staff ever said the attack was because of a video.

      Just another Republican lie like Ryan and his “dish washing”.

    • Mike Freeman

      Yes, this story should actually be about THAT! What a doofus!

  • Pingback: Will Paul Ryan’s Photo Op Hurt a Catholic Charity’s Efforts to Feed the Poor | emptywheel

  • Jack West

    liar liar pants on fire….nice watch i take mind off when i wash dishes….wink wink.

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  • Kathy A.
  • matt

    quite a contrast to the whole obama family feeding actual people on thanksgiving,

    with a team of volunteers who would have been there even if the obamas hadn’t showed.

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  • DISHonest

    I do this every day, but with dirty dishes. I feel accomplished afterward, yet no one takes pictures of it. I’m also 100% sure that he makes more money for it. This dude is a gimmick.

  • MaryJo

    I worked at a homeless shelter/soup kitchen and I can tell you that the kitchen does NOT look like that after meal time. All the pans are spotless and neatly stacked. There’s no grease, grime, dirty pots, overflowing trash, food splatter on the floors. Someone else had already thoroughly cleaned that kitchen, then Mr. Ryan had the audacity to take credit for the hard work the volunteers had already done. Its downright shameful! I’m embarrassed for him.

  • ttbrown

    Who cares?…the press made him do it, and you never mess w/ the press.

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  • LaylaChloesNana

    Newsflash: The media stages photos all the time. This is nothing new. Here’s a staged shot of Obama ‘talking’ about Bin Laden’s death:

  • LaylaChloesNana

    Update: Turns out it was a complete lie, told by Brian Antal, who votes Democratic. [] []

  • Grigory Leps

    miki Student Jun 9, 12, 10:55AM | #1

    Save students from – DISCLAIMER

    Joined: Jun 3, 12

    Threads: 3

    Posts: 31

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    I’ve really considered not doing this, not writing this personal thank you note with your name on it, and maybe saving you from even more hatred from the haters or avoiding one more fight between all of you. But have ruled it out; there are many others, who will come here with a broken tail, and I can only wish that somebody would help them with one quick response like you did in my case.

    Thank you Paypal ? always trust reliable services, once they’ve worked hard to gain your trust,

    Thank you for giving me the opportunity to learn soooo much so quickly. The scariest lesson ? average writer available to help to cheat on the college paper, excluding infamous 10% ENT, should be placed on the ESL pre-intermediate course.

    And last but not least, thank you – for not fighting as ugly as I was afraid you would. It’s not a very happy ending ? i have my money, but my ass still hurts. i guess the price must be paid somehow :)

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    MeoKhan Writer Jun 9, 12, 04:53PM | #2

    Joined: Jan 9, 11

    Threads: 5

    Posts: 1,386

    It seems that all you have on your mind is CW. However, it may not be a good idea to expect the same thing from us – the serious forum members. One thread is enough I guess.

    AllanSmith Writer Jun 9, 12, 05:10PM | #3

    Joined: Jun 9, 12

    Posts: 23

    I agree with MeoKhan

    Ishy Student Jun 9, 12, 05:41PM | #4

    Joined: May 24, 12

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  • Patricia

    OOH yeah this is definitely worse than Benghazi, isn’t it Jack? The biggest liar we’ve ever had as President and you are worried about a silly photo op?

  • Patricia

    Or why they let an ambassador without security in an unstable country. Oh yeah, I forgot, it was the video.

  • Stan B.

    Patricia- ya left this out:

    The event “was a photo op,” she said. “It was the phoniest piece of
    baloney I’ve ever been associated with. In hindsight, I would have never
    let him in the door.”

  • Stan B.
  • Mary Adams

    Repeating your lies won’t make them come true.

  • Patricia

    This is the best you guys can do? A photo shoot? Don’t forget all of BO’s fake ones.

  • LaylaChloesNana

    Stan B – turns out Brian Antal, who votes Democratic, either lied or was told a lie and they really did wash dishes. [] []

  • Stan B.

    Gotta give you Repubs credit- you cut and slash till oblivion- then you blame everyone- but yourselves…

  • Mary Adams

    Ryan and your Repubs voted AGAINST increasing security.

  • rphoto

    Patricia. I grew up going to Alligator Point. It most certainly is in the Gulf of Mexico so actually the article is wrong.

  • LaylaChloesNana

    Except that it’s not a lie. [] []

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