The controversy: An unannounced stop at a Youngstown, Ohio, soup kitchen has gotten Rep. Paul Ryan into some uncomfortably hot water. After a campaign event nearby, Ryan and his family stopped in at the dining hall run by the Mahoning County St. Vincent De Paul Society, and asked the person in charge if they could help out. Once inside, Ryan, his wife, and three children put on aprons and started washing pots and pans. (See the image at right and below.) In initial media interviews, Brian J. Antal, president of the charity, said the GOP campaign "ramrodded their way" into the soup kitchen, with journalists reporting that the Ryans washed pots and pans that "did not appear to be dirty." Indeed, "the photo-op they did wasn't even accurate," Antal said. "He did nothing. He just came in here to get his picture taken." But later, Antal changed his tune, conceding that the Ryans did actually wash dirty dishes. Ryan spokesman Michael Steel said there was no reason for anyone to be upset. "It was a great opportunity to highlight the importance of volunteerism and local charities," he said.
The reaction: What a "sorry charade," says Neetzan Zimmerman at Gawker. If the Romney-Ryan campaign is going to "show off their candidate's compassionate side," they should at least send him to have his photo taken at a soup kitchen where he can actually do some meaningful work. Give me a break, says Kyle Drennen at News Busters. The media storm over this is nothing but "a pathetic attempt to smear" Ryan. Keep in mind: Antal voted in Democratic primaries for the last 17 years, so he's hardly the "independent critic" he's being made out to be. Regardless, the only reason the pots were still dirty, it seems, is that the Ryan campaign had volunteers set them aside and wait for Ryan's arrival, says Luke Hill at Commonweal. "Feeding the hungry, caring for the sick" — it's not easy. And the fact that Ryan would make volunteers stick around after a hard day "so he can wash some pots that would already have been washed and put away is, in its own small way, abusive." See for yourself: