An extraordinarily misleading story published by Time in 2014 resurfaced Tuesday and was used by many to slam House Speaker Paul Ryan.
The story stripped context from a quote Ryan delivered while speaking two years ago at the Conservative Political Action Conference.
Here’s Ryan’s quote in full context:
“But I don’t think the problem is too many people are working — I think the problem is not enough people can find work. And if people leave the workforce, our economy will shrink — there will be less opportunity, not more. So the Left is making a big mistake here. What they’re offering people is a full stomach — and an empty soul. The American people want more than that.
“This reminds me of a story I heard from Eloise Anderson. She serves in the cabinet of my friend Governor Scott Walker. She once met a young boy from a poor family. And every day at school, he would get a free lunch from a government program. But he told Eloise he didn’t want a free lunch. He wanted his own lunch — one in a brown-paper bag just like the other kids’. He wanted one, he said, because he knew a kid with a brown-paper bag had someone who cared for him.
Time used that quote to headline a story: “Paul Ryan Says Free School Lunches Give Kids ‘An Empty Soul.'”
It was not clear why the story resurfaced on Tuesday, but it was widely circulated. Individuals used the story to characterise Ryan as a “monster” who had no sympathy for the less fortunate.
Here’s a sampling:
Starving people, literally, out of any opportunity to threaten their stronghold on wealth and resources in the future.
This is SICK.
— [email protected] (@FeministaJones) December 6, 2016
We should probably make sure Paul Ryan is never allowed to eat lunch again, in order to save his soul. ????
— Sara Nović (@NovicSara) December 6, 2016
The story was circulated as many in the media focus on the prevalence of “fake news” and how it could have swayed some individuals to vote for President-elect Donald Trump.
Some conservatives have countered that narrative by arguing much of the news reported by the so-called “mainstream media” during the campaign was inaccurate or, as they characterise it, “fake.”
Becket Adams, a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner, wrote on Twitter that taking Ryan out of context and recirculating a “badly botched” story only gave ammo to conservatives already sceptical of traditional media outlets.
If you want to stop fake news from influencing voters who’ve stopped relying on media brand names, work to restore trust. Think first.
— T. Becket Adams (@BecketAdams) December 6, 2016
“Dear media: If you want to combat the rise of fake news, the surest and most effective way to do this would be to reestablish your own credibility,” Adams added in a column.
Ironically, the issue of poverty is one Ryan has worked to address, as documented by BuzzFeed politics reporter McKay Coppins. Ryan has spent much “unchoreographed time with actual poor people” in a move “rather unprecedented for a Republican,” Coppins wrote in a 2014 story.
This was not the first time the years-old Time story resurfaced. In April 2015, a Time politics editor noted that it had also made the rounds on social media well after its initial publishing.
Moreover, in addition to taking Ryan out of context, the article failed to note that the story about Anderson turned out to be inaccurate and Ryan later apologised for using it to make his point in the 2014 speech.
A spokesperson for Time did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
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