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Anatomy of (Another) Paul Ryan Smear

The previous anti-Ryan myth we busted a few weeks ago was a bit more brazen than this latest iteration of media bias and laziness, but inaccurate political urban legends can take on a life of their own if the record is not emphatically corrected.  Democrats and their media allies have latched on to an anecdote about Paul Ryan's recent visit to a soup kitchen in Ohio.  As the story goes, Ryan showed up unannounced, posed for photos, then took off without doing much of anything -- angering the organization's director, an independent voter, in the process.  For a sense of where this is going, read the DNC's press release and its links to numerous news stories repeating their version of events.  Here's MSNBC piling on:


But there's a slight problem with the criticisms of Ryan, which did seem a bit embarrassing at first blush: They're inaccurate on almost every level.  NBC News cleans up the mess piece by piece: (1) Ryan's aides did, in fact, seek permission in advance for Ryan to appear at the kitchen.  They were given the green light by someone who turned out to be a volunteer, and was therefore unauthorized to make those sorts of decisions.  A miscommunication, and nothing more:

The head of the charity said a campaign aide who had sought permission for the visit prior to Ryan's visit was granted access by a volunteer, rather than any person of authority at the soup kitchen. The volunteer, Antal said, had no authority to allow or deny the Republican vice presidential candidate's stop.

(2) Paul Ryan did, in fact, exert some elbow grease by washing dirty dishes during his visit.  The organization's president was forced to rescind what turned out to be a false, second-hand account: 

Amid questions and criticisms related to Paul Ryan’s visit this weekend to an Ohio soup kitchen, the charity’s president said the Republican vice presidential candidate did, in fact, scrub dirty dishes...The question of whether the Wisconsin congressman cleaned dishes that were actually dirty – as opposed to re-washing already clean dishes so as to get a good photo opportunity -- Mahoning County St. Vincent De Paul Society President Brian Antal clarified that Ryan did clean soiled dishes. This differs from what Antal had told the Washington Post Monday.  Speaking Tuesday morning with NBC News, Antal said he was not on-site when Ryan was at the soup kitchen and attributes his earlier comments that the dishes were clean when Ryan washed them to hearing the details second-hand from a volunteer.


(3) Mr. Antal is not the "independent" voter he claimed to be.  Surprise:

Brian J. Antal, president of the Mahoning County St. Vincent De Paul Society, described himself as an independent voter when telling the Post that vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan came into the soup kitchen without permission on Monday and “did nothing.” But records from the Mahoning County Board of Elections show that he has voted in Democratic primaries since at least 1995. 

So all three prongs of the attack aren't true.  Here's what actually went down:  There was an innocent mix-up over the permission-granting process, Paul Ryan arrived and did a good deed, then the story was distorted and peddled to the press by a Democratic partisan who disingenuously presented himself as an "independent."  But aside from all that, the media did a bang-up job.  Isn't that Paul Ryan just awful?  In fairness, mistakes happen -- will the news outlets that gave this fauxtroversy oxygen in the first place prominently correct the record?

The face of pure evil.  

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