YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio - A weekend visit to a Youngstown soup kitchen by Republican vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan sparked a political backlash that received national attention.
St. Vincent-DePaul Society President Brian Antal says the soup kitchen visit by Ryan was not scheduled, was not cleared through him, and he would not have allowed it. He says St. Vincent-DePaul is a faith-based society with no political ties whatsoever.
"We do not support any political organization or candidate in this election or any election. That is in our bylaws," Antal said.
The stop at the kitchen came after Ryan's town hall meeting at Youngstown State University on Saturday.
Antal says the meal serving was over and the staff was cleaning up, so Ryan's campaign people asked if he could help in the kitchen. "And in so many words asked (us) to save a couple of pans and (Ryan) washed a couple of pans and left," Antal said.
Antal says one newspaper report that Ryan washed already clean pans just for the camera is not true. Elected officials do sometimes volunteer at the kitchen, but Antal says not during an election campaign and not just for publicity or a photo opportunity. "They've done so for a couple of hours and they've done so without cameras," Antal said.
Antal says he needed to clear the air after receiving numerous phone calls from people who were upset by the visit and saying they would no longer make donations. He said that would only hurt the needy people they serve. "I'm here to protect the donations I get from the generous public to feed 100,000 people in our soup kitchen." Antal said.
Antal says he hopes people understand the mistake that was made and will continue to support the kitchen and its current capital campaign to make improvements in order to better serve the needy.