December 20th, 2013
12:05 PM ET
5 years ago

Georgia congressman defends school lunch comments

(CNN) - Rep. Jack Kingston defended his comments suggesting that low-income children who receive subsidized meals should clean the cafeteria in exchange for the free meals.

The Georgia Republican said he should have better clarified his comments and said they were not directed at a particular income group.

"This is not targeted to any one group. It would be very helpful for kids in any socio-economic group to do chores and learn the work ethic. Those kids aren't there because of any fault of their own and I never suggested that they were," he said Friday on CNN's "New Day."

Kingston, who is among a number of Republicans running for an open Senate seat next year, blamed the Democratic opposition, which he says followed him and recorded the video for fundraising purposes, and lamented the lack of "honest, open discussion" in American today.

In a video posted to the Huffington Post of Kingston at a public meeting, the congressman said that kids could pay 5 or 10 cents " instill in them that there is, in fact, no such thing as a free lunch," and then goes on to suggest work in return for the meal.

He continued: "Or maybe sweep the floor of the cafeteria - and yes, I understand that that would be an administrative problem, and I understand that it would probably lose you money. But think 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."

"I never did say poor kids," Kingston told New Day host Chris Cuomo.

"This wasn't anything in a backroom. This wasn't a policy statement. This was a discussion, and it seems like you can't even have that in America anymore."

Filed under: Georgia
soundoff (96 Responses)
  1. w l jones

    Those fly around world at taxpayer expense should clean plane bathroom. Enough.

    December 20, 2013 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  2. Tony

    How can he blame Democrats for following him around and recording what he says? If you don't want to be a public figure, don't run for Congress. On the other hand, at least we know that Republicans think they can speak the truth when they talk to donors.

    December 20, 2013 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  3. ThinkAgain

    Children in school ALREADY HAVE A JOB: Being a student. That means being an attentive classmate, doing homework, learning not just academics, but also social skills (hint: Kingston needs a refresher course) and all the other activities and responsibilities that children participate in as part of the education process.

    The LAST things any kid needs is the stigma of the whole school knowing that they are from a poor family.

    The fact that Kingston – and folks like Gingrich, who proposed a similar idea – don't get this, proves these folks are unfit for public office.

    December 20, 2013 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  4. thinking outside the box

    He may not have said a specific socioeconomic group in his comments, but the free lunches are only provided to those at or below 130% of the federal poverty level. So there are only so many socioeconomic groups eligible for a free lunch. Or is the Congressman going to claim that he was ignorant to who is even eligible for the free lunch?

    December 20, 2013 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  5. current state of the union

    Like I said, being a Republican means never having to say your sorry.

    December 20, 2013 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  6. Thomas

    We can only hope and pray for the good of the country he has to resign his Senate seat.


    Please speak for yourself , do not use we in your statements . You don't speak with any compassion or humility .

    I have empathy for you and your family .

    Get well soon, Senator!

    December 20, 2013 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  7. Thomas

    It's one thing to learn respect . However you need people who you respect to teach that respect .

    That is something Rep. Jack Kingston is lacking of.

    December 20, 2013 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  8. Anonymous

    Sure, GOP- just bring back child labor. While you're at it, how about indentured servitude? Perhaps slavery. Wonder why your approval rating is 20% and people don't want to vote for you?

    December 20, 2013 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  9. Malory Archer


    Kids, thats to harsh and would cause self-esteem issues. However, adults on welfare or unemployment should have to do some community service. Sure would motivate someone if they had to pick up highway trash for a couple hours. They do it in Denmark.


    People on unemployment are too busy looking for a job (or retraining to get a different job) to do community service. The vast majority of those who receive welfare are already working – two or three jobs in come cases – and STILL aren't making it. Here in Pinellas County Florida a single adult would have to earn $13.65 an hour working full time in order to afford $700 for rent – and there aren't ANY one bedroom accomodations to be had for that price ANYWHERE in the county, except in 55 and older communities and really bad neighborhoods. The prevailing wage for skilled workers is $10 an hour, and minimum wage for unskilled workers. Someone making $10 an hour would have to work 55 hours a week to be able to afford $700 in rent. There aren't enough jobs as it is, so making it necessary for people to work so many hours just be able to afford to eat and live indoors only creates more unemployment.

    December 20, 2013 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  10. Tony

    Rep. Kingston should clean the rooms in which he talks to donors. This will instill work ethic in Congress. If kids need to be taught that there is no such thing as a free lunch, people running for Congress should not get handouts from donors.

    December 20, 2013 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  11. wendel

    I agree with wi jones. well said.

    December 20, 2013 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  12. Darlene

    Maybe you Congress people should clean the Capitol floors to replace the money the taxpayers pay you since you all are not doing your job.

    December 20, 2013 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  13. Rudy NYC

    Yeah, he's a "serious conservative", alright. Too stubborn to walk back offensive remarks, charging ahead, instead.

    December 20, 2013 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  14. CB FL

    I think what Rep Trey Radel said when he got out of rehab that all congress people be required to take a drug test.

    December 20, 2013 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  15. Susan DeMint

    All this would do is mark these children to be teased and bullied and it would be the schools fault this is rediculas it is not the responsibility of the children to make the money to feed them, it is awful

    December 20, 2013 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  16. ThinkAgain

    @smith: "Kids, thats to harsh and would cause self-esteem issues. However, adults on welfare or unemployment should have to do some community service. Sure would motivate someone if they had to pick up highway trash for a couple hours."

    There ARE work requirements: States can change the requirements — revising, adding or eliminating them — as part of a federally approved state-specific plan to increase job placement.

    Benefits still won’t be paid beyond an allotted time, whether the recipient is working or not.

    Ah, facts! Kinda cool, eh?

    December 20, 2013 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  17. Gunderson

    Old Gunderson milk cows feed horses put up hay and do plenty of things before 17. But some think real work beneath them. With Bummy Care over the horizion some you get real education what work like. Try it, you find you like it! Oh, sorry you still in pajama's, no?

    December 20, 2013 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  18. The Real Tom Paine

    At the school I attended, the kids in the high school all had to take a turn for 2 weeks at cleaning the school, each of us with a specific work assignment. Now, this was at a private school, and this was something kids were told about as they enrolled. Its obvious that Kingston wanted this as a quid pro quo for using the school meals program: why single them out, and let the other kids off scot-free? I don't object to the idea, as long as its applied across the board, otherwise all it become is yet another way of singling kids out according to socio-economic status. Humiliation rarely is a good teacher unless its punishment, and why punsih these kids for things beyond their control?

    December 20, 2013 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  19. smith

    @Think again- That`s it, blame Wal-Mart for poverty. It`s not Wal-mart`s job to keep people out of poverty. If you don`t think Wal-Mart pays good don`t work there.

    December 20, 2013 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  20. Bobby Ganuge

    Upper-middle class brats are the ones with "affluenza". Let them clean the cafeteria.

    December 20, 2013 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  21. Ruthann Adamsky

    Rep. Jack Kingston says, "...This was a discussion, and it seems like you can't even have that in America anymore."
    A discussion is where you say something and someone else says what they think. And that is exactly what is happening.
    What you can't have is where you issue a statement and the peasants scurry around to do your bidding.
    I have some spare dimes, shall I mail them to you to pay for a few kids lunch?

    December 20, 2013 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  22. Patrick in Wisconsin

    And the tea baggers claim they're the victims of this whole "class warfare?"

    December 20, 2013 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  23. T

    .......Kids should learn about effort, work, and reward....................even Mitt's kids.................

    December 20, 2013 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  24. MartyGRMI

    More demonizing the poor by the GOP

    December 20, 2013 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  25. BADGUY

    Just how RIDICULOUS can these guy's GET?????

    December 20, 2013 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
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