December 20th, 2013
12:05 PM ET
4 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. m123

    Better yet, let's put them to work in factories, like they did a century ago
    Who needs schooling anyway?
    As long as they can serve their political masters, that's all this loser cares about.
    Govt sucks, period

    December 20, 2013 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  2. Name jk. Sfl. GOP CRUZ lee&rubio 24billion dallar LOSS of your tax money conservatives,the garbage of America.

    This teaparty loser is the one who should clean the cafeteria because these GOP slime balls don't do anything for their money and this teaparty hick will be kicked out of office in 2014 midterms. The GOP teaparty conservatives ARE the garbage and sewage of America .

    December 20, 2013 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  3. Winston Smith

    Amazing. He's of the mindset that all of us have no work ethic at all. It's a good bet that he's never worked up a good sweat, and done so day after day after day for thirty plus years. It's also a good bet that his children are never going to do more than necessary to squeak by, and they'll never see the inside of a military uniform. People like this are elected by people with one mind on making sure they don't have to comply with regular social order, but damn sure the rest of us tow the mark when it comes to making their life as easy as humanly possible. WAKE UP.

    December 20, 2013 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  4. PaulCat

    Lets start paying you for the number of days you work per week. I'm sure you do not earn the $200,000 per year salary.
    You people have gone totally nuts.

    December 20, 2013 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  5. Guest


    December 20, 2013 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  6. Guest

    Go back to selling insurance – a much better fit for you.

    December 20, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  7. Me

    Malory Archer

    After reading this I've got the song "Hard Knock Life" from Annie stuck in my head! Yeah, let's tell every other student in the school which kids are poor! They'd NEVER use that information as a cudgel against those kids. What an effed up individual this guy kingston is, and his comments are indefensible.
    While I agree he could have stated it in a better way, I do not see what all the uproar is over this. When I was growing up and in elementary school, we did help in the lunch room serving food, doing dishes, cleaning, etc. Every two weeks it was assigned to a different class and you were assigned a "job". I learned a lot from doing it throughout my childhood, it instilled a strong work ethic in me and taught me responsibility. I did not grow up in a low income area either, we were middle class to upper middle class.

    December 20, 2013 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  8. Jonathon Powelly

    No doubt it is the kids fault they are poor? Newt suggested the same thing. Typical Republicans.

    December 20, 2013 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  9. roger

    So is it that working in the cafeteria is beneath them? Yea, let's get them used to taking free hand outs and they'll grow up to be deadbeats BUT they'll be good little Democrats.

    December 20, 2013 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  10. carloooos

    Well...this is about as crazy as it gets. Next to republican's comments about rape...this is right up there..

    December 20, 2013 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  11. dj head

    Merry Christmas to you too crazy teabagger!!!

    December 20, 2013 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  12. Just sayin too....

    just another republican with a bad case of foot in mouth ridiculous is this? the most agregious of his assertions is that these children haven't been taught work does he know this? has he visited every home and collected data? the scariest part of this story is the part that's left out...this man was duly elected.. there should be a standardized test given to people who seek to hold high offices...

    December 20, 2013 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  13. Me

    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?
    I agree, you make all students take turns, the school I went to was not a private school, it was a public school and we still had to take turns working in the cafeteria about once a quarter, everyone not just a certain group of students.

    December 20, 2013 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  14. Fightin4Amurrka

    Honestly, Democrats really don't need to put any big money into campaigning. All they have to do is just show a 30 or 40 second clip of all the bugnuts things these Tea Bag Anti-Patriots say.
    (1) Rape? God's Will...
    (2) Gay Marriage? What's next? People sleeping with dogs? (a Santorum favorite)
    (3) What? Women having a say with contraceptives? Not according to God's will
    (4) What? Women initiating marriage? Not in my great commonwealth of Virginia!
    (5) Illegal aliens are godless spawns of Satan
    (6) Death camps
    (7) Obama should show his birth certificate. Ted Cruz for President 2016

    And on and on. Seriously. The only reason why Democrats tend to lose in congressional races is because they talk too much. I say, let these self-righteous Tea Bags do all the talking. All the Dems have to do is look at the camera like Ann Perkins or Ben Wyatt does on Parks and Rec.

    December 20, 2013 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  15. Amanda

    It's a toss up for me; while I see the benefits of such a program, I also see that our children are forced into schools, most of the ones in public schools cannot afford to buy lunches. What about when a child is sick? Do they not eat that day? What about children w/disabilities/diffabilities? Will they continue on their "free" lunch while other kids are forced to work for theirs? I just feel that there is so much wrong with the public school system that adding another "program" will only make it worse. When are they supposed to have time for ACTUAL studies? They already have reduced lunch and break times. Some kids have two meals a day at school and MAYBE a snack at home because parents can't afford groceries. I know there are drug/alcohol addicted people of waste money on those things instead of food, but the ENTIRE population isn't like that; most people truly struggle while doing all of the right things. I would honestly sign 3 of my children up for the program because there is nothing wrong w/them and they need to learn work ethics. However, I would give my fourth child the choice because she has rheumatoid arthritis and there are days when she struggles to get out of bed, but forces herself to go to school because she wants an education. But, I DO NOT think that a child's work should depend on whether or not they EAT. I also think that it should wait until high school; give these kids time to be kids before introducing them to the adult world. 🙂

    December 20, 2013 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  16. smith

    @Malory- I understand what your saying, but there is still plenty of time that these folks could pick up some highway trash for the benefits they are getting.

    December 20, 2013 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  17. solex

    Even the most ardent conservative cannot possibly defend this guy. Child labor? Come on man...

    December 20, 2013 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  18. Monisha Freeman

    You cannot try and fix what was said. If the kids receiving free lunch need to work so they will know that nothing is free- then in turn, maybe rich kids should all do community service for the same lesson!

    December 20, 2013 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  19. Realist

    This is what kids did in my school growing up. If they were ever made fun of, the teachers simply told us that these kids would probably grow up to be our bosses some day. Strange that Democrats would find a work ethic to be stagmatizing...

    December 20, 2013 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  20. Anonymous

    Sorry, but this was just a stupid, hateful, empty-headed comment. He said it, and has no one to blame but himself.
    If he wants to instill work ethics in people, he can start with himself and the rest of the lazy tea party Representatives.

    Children need their self-esteem fed by caring people, and I hope they never hear any of this stupidity from their
    teachers or any other school official. "Think what we would gain" if people like this guy were voted out of

    December 20, 2013 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  21. Realist


    December 20, 2013 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  22. smith

    @Think Again-Im not debating the systems functions. Im saying they can pick up some highway trash for the benefits they are getting.

    December 20, 2013 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  23. Theresa oberloh

    Since 2008 I have been taking care of my family on my own. My husband went into kidney failure for the second time and was released from his job. We are now waiting for our court date with disability. There have been many months that my hubby has to wait to get his meds filled because I can't afford the co-pays. None of this is my children's fault. I believe you are an ass for what you are proposing. Make all the illegals clean something. My children were born and belong here.

    December 20, 2013 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  24. Amanda

    ...and if chores is all it is about; my kids are GOOD cos they do 90% of the cleaning at home, cos they make 90% of the mess. I have a chore calendar, it rotates daily, they each have to clean the living room, their rooms, clean the kitchen (including dishes), they wash/fold/put away their OWN laundry, and on the weekends pick up the yard together. Getting these things done allows privileges such as games, using MY telephone, and going places w/ their friends. They don't do their assigned chore each day, the next day, all day, they are on LOCK DOWN restriction w/ zero privileges. To be fair, they are all teenagers and were leveled up very slowly to the big stuff from the age of 9. I tend to think that my children will have a great work ethic, know how to take care of themselves, and respect the hard work of others. So, what need to happen is more parents introducing their children to work ethics/habits; school is a place for education and school admin has no idea what these kids are truly capable of; the parents do!

    December 20, 2013 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  25. Jackie Irby

    and WHAT work ethic does the kid have that doesn't have a subsidized lunch! Shame on this man, get him out of office and have him clean the freakin cafeteria!

    December 20, 2013 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
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