LYNCHBURG, VA -- 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 though his visit wasn’t officially sanctioned.
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.
Following a town hall meeting in Youngstown, OH on Saturday, Ryan -- joined by his wife and three kids -- made a quick stop at the St. Vincent De Paul Society shortly after the homeless people had breakfast. There were only volunteers left inside the building by the time Ryan arrived, as his public event ran longer than expected.
After arriving at the soup kitchen -- where Secret Service agents and staff had gathered before the motorcade arrived -- the Ryan family put on white aprons and proceeded to wash dishes for several minutes as cameras and still photographers snapped photos nearby.
In response to questions about Antal’s comments to the Washington Post that Ryan “did nothing” while at the soup kitchen, Antal said his words were mischaracterized. He told NBC News in that Ryan did very little work only compared to the larger context of Saturday morning, when the kitchen fed 180 homeless people breakfast. Antal conceded that Ryan did wash several dirty dishes.
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.
Ryan has made several quick stops that are unannounced to the general public in the past while campaigning across the country. In response to questions about the stop in the battleground state of Ohio that has raised questions in the media, campaign spokesman Michael Steel said: “It was a great opportunity to highlight the importance of volunteerism and local charities.”
Antal says he is speaking to the media because the organization is non-political and is concerned that being connected to the campaign could negatively impact their support.
The confusion, though, hasn't stopped Democrats from trying to turn Ryan's stop into a political issue.
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.”