Paul Ryan Takes Part In The Dumbest Staged Photo Op Ever

I’ve really got to wonder which person on Ryan’s advance team thought this was a good idea:

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Paul Ryan visited a soup kitchen here Saturday on his way to the airport, but by the time the GOP vice presidential nominee and his family had arrived shortly before noon, the grits, sausage and doughnuts had been served, the hall was empty of patrons and the volunteers appeared to have already cleaned up.

When Ryan did talk to some men who appeared to be homeless, as he did when he left the venue, reporters were not allowed to listen in on the exchange.

The visit by Ryan came after a town hall meeting Saturday morning at Youngstown State University.

After greeting and thanking a handful of volunteers from St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Canfield, Ohio — who said they typically visit the St. Vincent DePaul Society every Saturday and serve food from 10 to 11:30 a.m. — Ryan, his wife and their young children headed to the kitchen, donned white aprons and offered to clean up some dishes.

Ryan stood at the sink and took some large metal pans that did not appear to be dirty, soaped them up and rinsed them, remarking as the cameras clicked and the TV cameras rolled that he had spent a summer washing dishes when he was younger.

“We had a Hobart, though, which was — you get calluses on your fingers because it’s so hot,” he said, referring to the Hobart industrial dishwashing machine.

And the head of the charity isn’t too happy about the whole thing:

The head of a northeast Ohio charity says that the Romney campaign last week “ramrodded their way” into the group’s Youngstown soup kitchen so that GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan could get his picture taken washing dishes in the dining hall.

Brian J. Antal, president of the Mahoning County St. Vincent De Paul Society, said that he was not contacted by the Romney campaign ahead of the Saturday morning visit by Ryan, who stopped by the soup kitchen after a town hall at Youngstown State University.

“We’re a faith-based organization; we are apolitical because the majority of our funding is from private donations,” Antal said in a phone interview Monday afternoon. “It’s strictly in our bylaws not to do it. They showed up there, and they did not have permission. They got one of the volunteers to open up the doors.”

He added: “The photo-op they did wasn’t even accurate. He did nothing. He just came in here to get his picture taken at the dining hall.”


He added that the incident had caused him “all kinds of grief” and that regardless of whether Ryan had intended to serve food to patrons or wash dishes, he would not have allowed the visit to take place.

“Had they asked for permission, it wouldn’t have been granted. … But I certainly wouldn’t have let him wash clean pans, and then take a picture,” Antal said.

From the campaign side, this was just a dumb move. If there wasn’t any work to do then why make it look like the candidate was doing work to begin with? Not a big story, but not a good sign of planning and common sense either.

Update: It would appear that the dishes actually were dirty.

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, US Politics, , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. JoshB says:

    Seems fitting to me. This is a “Catholic” man that makes nothing more than empty gestures as the poor while placating the rich. There was as much substance on the pots and pans as in their plans for the middle class.

  2. Geek, Esq. says:

    You didn’t wash that!

  3. swearyanthony says:

    At least GWB could stage a photo op that held up for a day. Sheesh.

  4. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Paul Ryan Takes Part In The Dumbest Staged Photo Op Ever

    Nah. Nothing ever will top Dukakis in the tank. That one transcends politics. In 2nd place is Kerry in that de facto bunny suit. In 3rd place is Kerry with the hunting rifle. I’m not entirely sure this latest silliness from Ryan even is in the top-10 much less the top-5. But no doubt it’ll fire up Obama’s young and addled supporters, which I guess has to count for something.

  5. JeffC says:

    I would say that Obama and Hillary standing next to the coffins of the 4 slain State Department folks and lying to the American people is the worst staged photo op in history …

  6. C. Clavin says:

    You didn’t wash that….funny.
    It’s not that bad really…because if you do not know the back-story it looks fine.
    This child on the other hand…should not be a heart-beat away from the nuke codes:
    Of course we do not have pictures of his sub-10 minute marathon time.

  7. cd6 says:

    He didn’t even bother to take off his tie or his watch or his wedding ring. I mean, I want him to lose, but come the fuck on here

  8. John Peabody says:

    Yeah, bad move. I saw this on Facebook last night with words like “Republicans only come to soup kitchens when the riff-raff have left” and “Ryan shows up late, waiting until the homeless have gone”. Lose-lose.

  9. rodney dill says:

    This one seems pretty dumb.

  10. C. Clavin says:

    3 down-votes for linking to a picture?
    Somebody’s feelings are hurt?

  11. KariQ says:

    I know a certain arrogance goes with being a politician, but Paul Ryan seems to take narcissism to an extreme. It’s like he can’t imagine that other people won’t have the same opinion of him that he does of himself, can’t imagine that everyone won’t be impressed by whatever he does or says. It could just be that he got thrust into the spotlight of a national campaign too soon and hadn’t had a chance to make the stupid mistakes in front of smaller audiences, but it’s really amazing to see someone come across as so oblivious to how things might play out while expecting to be treated oh so seriously.

  12. OzarkHillbilly says:

    remarking as the cameras clicked and the TV cameras rolled that he had spent a summer washing dishes when he was younger. “We had a Hobart, though, which was — you get calluses on your fingers because it’s so hot,” he said,


    Add this lie to all the rest. He has never washed a dish in a restaurant in his entire life. If he had, he would know that all that hot water makes it impossible to form callouses. Dumbsh!t.

  13. DC Loser says:

    And IF he ever had worked in a restaurant, you’d know that dishwashers all wear gloves to protect themselves from the hot water and whatever other nastiness is in the dirty dishes and pots.

  14. Mikey says:

    @DC Loser: I didn’t…in retrospect, probably not the wisest decision for my then-18 self to have made. Back then, gloves weren’t as ubiquitous as they are now, I guess. Didn’t wear them as a dishwasher or as a fry cook.

  15. john personna says:

    “Dumb” is the watered down version. This was actually “Dishonest”, “Misleading”, and “Insincere.”

    @rodney dill:

    That was poor planning Rodney, but not a lie in quite the same way.

  16. john personna says:

    Seriously, this is like a scene from a Terry Pratchett novel … a politician breaks into a charity to wash dishes which don’t need washing for a photo op. In one vignette it completely captures a cynical politician.

  17. Fiona says:

    Not quite as bad as Dukakis in a tank but an incredibly stupid piece of political theater nonetheless.

  18. Rafer Janders says:

    Well, I’ll say this for Ryan, at least he didn’t hang a giant “Sanitation Accomplished” banner behind him for the photo op…..

  19. Scott O says:

    Anyone who has actually worked in a restaurant watching this guy put on an apron would know he’s never done it before. The strings get tied in front, not behind your back.!

    I suppose it’s possible they didn’t wear aprons where he worked.

  20. rodney dill says:

    This one’s a pretty dumb photo op too. Though I guess it technically isn’t staged.

  21. G.A. says:

    So I put the parental block on MSNBC because it works on kids on the other side of the TV too, then I come here and read this crap. Go figure….

  22. Mikey says:

    @john personna: I believe the word you’re looking for is “contrived.”

    It would have been far better for him to just meet with the staff, or something. What he did was just inane.

    To echo some other commenters, though: not nearly as awful as Tank Dukakis. But then, that’s a pretty high (low?) bar.

  23. john personna says:

    @rodney dill:

    Jeebus Rodney, do you understand the word “honesty?”

    A goof-off photo is so much like fake charity! I mean, in one he’s laughing and raising his arms, and in the other he’s pretending to wash dishes for the poor. That’s exactly alike! Except one “technically” isn’t staged.

  24. john personna says:


    It would have been simply “inane” if someone was washing real dishes that day, and he stepped in for a few minutes to “help.”

    You understand that they took clean dishes off the shelf to make the photo, right?

  25. john personna says:

    (I see Dukakis in a tank as far better, because Dukakis never pretended to be accomplishing anything. He was there to hang with the troops and learn their experience. He just looked really dopey doing it.)

  26. mantis says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Of course we do not have pictures of his sub-10 minute marathon time.

    He runs so fast ordinary cameras could not capture him.

  27. mantis says:

    @rodney dill:

    This one’s a pretty dumb photo op too. Though I guess it technically isn’t staged.

    All the world’s a stage, when you are trying to completely miss the point.

  28. rodney dill says:

    @john personna: Do you understand the word “dumb?” I’m commenting on what the post said its claimed to be about, the dumbest ‘staged’ photo op. I’m having fun finding what I think to be dumber ones, though as I said the mispelling OHIO apparently wasn’t staged.

  29. john personna says:

    @rodney dill:

    Well, I consider that moral bankruptcy on your part.

    When you take the dishonest, and merely call it “dumb” you are providing cover for dishonesty.

  30. Mikey says:

    @john personna:

    You understand that they took clean dishes off the shelf to make the photo, right?

    Yes, hence “contrived.”

    I wouldn’t consider it particularly inane if he’d actually helped with actual work (well, no more inane than the usual political photo-op) because he’d actually be, you know, doing something relatively useful.

  31. john personna says:


    I used these words:“Dishonest”, “Misleading”, and “Insincere.”

    And you answered “I believe the word you’re looking for is ‘contrived.’”

    Do you think going into an idle charity, to fake-wash clean dishes was only “contrived” and not “dishonest,” “misleading,” or “insincere?”

  32. Mikey says:

    @john personna: Tank Dukakis was just awful. Everything from his head barely sticking out the TC hatch to his name in big block letters taped across his CVC helmet. Whoever in his campaign OK’d that should have been sentenced to replace every track shoe on that tank.

    The fact he was there trying to “hang with the troops” only made it worse. How out of place he was! Then again, I can’t think of any current candidate who would look any better.

    Well, except Biden. Something about that guy just seems like it would fit in.

  33. Mikey says:

    @john personna: Yeah, I wasn’t quite right with what I wrote. Would have been better to simply say I’d add “contrived,” as my intent wasn’t to come off as confrontational. But “contrived” definitely belongs.

  34. john personna says:


    We might not be that far apart on all this then. I do remember that Dukakis was trying (or perceived as trying) to look more hawkish at the time as his tank ride. And so he became a bobble-head instead.

  35. rodney dill says:

    I would reserve the words contrived, misleading, and insincere for something more like Obama’s Fossil Fuel tour.

  36. legion says:

    @mantis: At what point do we start comparing Romney & Ryan’s lies to North Korean propaganda? Like, “their proposals will end all human suffering…. when they were born, 50 bald eagles circled an erupting volcano…” I sense a meme here…

  37. john personna says:

    @rodney dill:

    I can see why you normally stick to one-liners. There’s not much there that makes an argument for greater dishonesty, the kind you’d need to “reserve the words.”

    all while the President touts the virtues of energy sources not equipped to power America: wind, solar, and, most recently, algae.

    I’m pretty sure all of those have been backed by the last 4 or 5 Presidents, in sequence. Algae might be the newcomer, but:

    From 1980 to 1996 the US Department of Energy supported the Aquatic Species Program (ASP), a relatively small effort (about $25 million over almost 20 years) with the specific goal of producing oil from microalgae.

    Serious, Rodney?

  38. gVOR08 says:

    This story only matters if the MSM pick it up. I Googled it and found only blog stories. This fits so neatly into a narrative about Romney-Ryan’s basic dishonesty and false concern for the poor. But that doesn’t seem to be a story the supposedly liberal MSM want to get into.

  39. rodney dill says:

    @john personna:

    There’s not much there that makes an argument for greater dishonesty,

    Then you really didn’t read to much from the link, though I didn’t use the word ‘dishonesty,’ Mainly as there was no direct evidence of it in the link. (though it still could be there). So flying to a town in New Mexico (with a population less than 40) in an areas that relies heavily on the oil industry, to talk about your energy policies, is sincere and not contrived or misleading in anyway. The link contains links to the President giving speeches in front of oil jacks so it sort of fits in with “dumb” photo op meme as well.

    I’m sure everyone will be convince what a friend Obama has been to the Oil and Coal industries.

    (updated thought to though)

  40. john personna says:

    @rodney dill:

    You know what you REALLY need for equivalence, Rodney?

    You need Obama to take off his jacket. To put on a white lab coat. To pick up a test tube with green food coloring. You need him to squint at it.

    Then add the captain “Obama helps solve our energy problems.”

  41. G.A. says:

    You chair clones do know that they make waterproof watches right? And that 1%er’s like Ryan probably just toss theirs into the garbage at night and put on a brand new one in the morning…gee….

  42. anjin-san says:

    You chair clones do know that they make waterproof watches right?

    A waterproof watch would probably not last long when exposed to the large amounts of grease and general banging associated with washing dishes – back in my dish dog days no one wore a watch to work.

  43. Gromitt Gunn says:

    I’ve already seen three or four variations on “You Didn’t Clean That!” on my facebook feed today, so I think it is gaining some traction.

    Also – WTF is a “chair clone”?

  44. Dazedandconfused says:

    I’m not a huge Matt Taibi fan, but I think he hit it out of the park on this one.

    This has become too much like a damn game show.

  45. Mikey says:

    @Dazedandconfused: From Taibbi:

    a Mitt Romney presidency would have felt like four straight years of waking up with a naked Lloyd Blankfein sitting on your face

    That’s pretty funny considering what a huge Democrat supporter and contributor Blankfein is, and how many times he’s visited the White House during Obama’s tenure.

    The rest of the piece is great, though, and he’s right, it’s just gotten to be too much. The other night I saw five–five!–political ads in a single commercial break. In. A. Row. (The perils of living in a swing state.) And that means campaigns are stupidly expensive, which means The Big Money has all the sway.

  46. Rafer Janders says:


    a Mitt Romney presidency would have felt like four straight years of waking up with a naked Lloyd Blankfein sitting on your face

    I dunno, between that and Orwell’s quote from “1984” that “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever”, I might choose the boot….

  47. Mikey says:

    @Rafer Janders: We could split the difference and have the boot stomp a naked Lloyd Blankfein.

  48. matt says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: yeah i lolol callouses with dishes??? clueless..

  49. Just Me says:

    Another attack goes down the drain.

    You should probably update this one since the person quoted in your first article wasn’t there and didn’t have the facts straight before talking to the media:

  50. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Just Me: You still can’t build up callouses with hot water. And that did come out of his mouth. Chalk up another one for the lies that come out of our Galtian Over Lords….

    “No, really, I was once just like you! I used to wash dishes!!!”

    Just Me, can you please, just once, say, “Liar, liar, pants on fire.”???? Or, let me simplify, “BWLLSH!T!!!!”

  51. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @matt: I can only shake my head.

  52. grumpy realist says:

    @Just Me: Or are they simply frantically spinning?

  53. rodney dill says:

    @grumpy realist: The link has that covered too.

    The confusion, though, hasn’t stopped Democrats from trying to turn Ryan’s stop into a political issue.

    …and its the left frantically spinning.
    The head of the charity has also been outed as having his own agenda.

    The Washington Post posted an updated article online Tuesday morning noting: “The head of an Ohio charity who criticized Mitt Romney’s campaign for staging a ‘photo-op’ at one of the group’s soup kitchens has consistently voted in Democratic primaries.”


  54. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @rodney dill: OMG, really?? Someone who chose to make their career in non-profit management is a Democrat?!?! I’d have thought that was a solid GOP demographic!