March 7, 2014

It seems that the nastiness coming from Rep. Paul Ryan's vacuous, sloganeering speech he gave at CPAC, attacking children who receive free lunches at school along with their parents wasn't the only thing wrong with the tale he told the audience this Thursday.

As Jonathan Chait observed:

In the post above, I assumed that the basic anecdote recounted by Ryan is factually correct, which is total journalistic malpractice. Via Wonkette, the school lunch story appears to have been recycled from a story and altered beyond recognition in the process. The original story had nothing to do with a child turning down a free lunch. It's about a kid, Maurice Mazyck, who met a private benefactor, Laura, asking to literally have his lunch placed in a brown paper bag:

Here's more from Wonkette: Somebody Is Stealing Children To Put In Paul Ryan Speeches!:

Wonker Tallmutha caught TPM commenter Ottnott sexplaining that the whole story was STOLED from the book An Invisible Thread, which is about … GIVING CHILDREN FREE FOOD AND HOW THAT IS THE BEST!

The paper-bag lunch story is from a 2011 book about a hungry, panhandling kid in New York City.

And the kid in the book wasn’t turning down gov’t subsidized lunches at school, he was reacting to a private benefactor’s offer to pay for his cafeteria lunches at school.

“Look, Maurice, I don’t want you out there hungry on the nights I don’t see you, so this is what we can do. I can either give you some money for the week–and you’ll have to be really careful about how you spend it–or when you come over on Monday night we can go to the supermarket and I can buy all the things you like to eat and make you lunch for the week. I’ll leave it wih the doormen, and you can pick it up on the way to school.”

Maurice looked at me and asked me a question.

“If you make me lunch,” he said, “will you put it in a brown paper bag?”

I didn’t really understand the question. “Do you want it in a brown paper bag?” I asked. “Or how would you prefer it?”

“Miss Laura,” he said, “I don’t want your money. I want my lunch in a brown paper bag.”

“Okay, sure. But why do you want it in a bag?”

“Because when I see kids come to school with their lunch in a paper bag, that means someone cares about them. Miss Laura, can I please have my lunch in a paper bag?”

You can watch the segment from Mike Huckabee's show from Jan. 6 discussing the book above.

Chait has more updates on just where Ryan may or may not have originally heard the story, but it doesn't make the fact that he got the message exactly backwards, or his speech attacking Democrats and children and their families who rely on school lunch programs any better.

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