OKLAHOMA CITY - The Oklahoma Republican Party is under fire after a controversial Facebook post.
In the post, the Oklahoma GOP compared providing food stamp benefits for Americans in need to feeding animals at national parks.
"The Food Stamp Program, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is proud to be distributing this year the greatest amount of free Meals and Food Stamps ever, to 46 million people. Meanwhile, the National Park Service, administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior, asks us 'Please Do Not Feed the Animals.' Their stated reason for the policy is because 'The animals will grow dependent on handouts and will not learn to take care of themselves.' Thus ends today's lesson in irony #OKGOP."
The Facebook status was posted Monday, but started gaining traction on Tuesday.
The post has received more than 1,400 comments and 1,600 shares.
Most of those who commented thought the status went too far.
"Are we really comparing people living in poverty to animals?" Laura asked.
"The true lesson in irony is that the same party demanding that the Ten Commandments monument should remain on the Capitol is neglecting the very premise of Christianity. What happened to Matthew 25:35? "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in." Or is it just more convenient to only pay attention to the verses against homosexuality...?" Courtney said.
Even other conservatives thought the post was in poor taste.
"As a Conservative I will say plainly that this is in awful taste. It's a disgrace and the comparison made in this post is beyond offensive. It takes away from legitimate discussions regarding Welfare. It's counterproductive," Alexander said.
While most of the comments on the controversial post were overwhelmingly negative, there were others who agreed with the message.
"Bravo!! Great truth!! Some need help in some cases but to continue to LIVE EXPECTING handouts is not right!!" Pat said.
Oklahomans receiving assistance average $118 for individuals, $257 for families, per month. In April of this year, 591,425 Oklahomans in 268,588 households received food stamps, a decrease of 1.2% from April of last year.
In Oklahoma, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides a maximum benefit of $649 a month for a four-member household whose monthly net income does not exceed $1,988, or $23,856 per year.
The Oklahoma Department of Human Services was appalled by the post.
"Shame on you for comparing people in poverty with disabilities to animals! That was an appalling and uninformed comment. Obviously you did not bother to know the majority of the 604,000 people receiving food benefits in Oklahoma are people who are aging, people with disabilities (including disabled veterans) and the working poor who are raising children.
The able-bodied adults who do not have children can only receive food benefits for three months if they are unemployed or must work at least 20 hours a week to receive help beyond that point. Last month, only 13,000 or 2.1% of the total recipients were in this category. Food benefits are a very small amount and are not intended to be a person's entire food budget, thus the name "Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program."
In fact, the average SNAP benefit is $4.27 per person per day or $1.42 per meal. The people who need this meager benefit are dependent upon it in order to keep themselves and their children from starving. Is that the kind of dependency you are suggesting we discourage?"
The House Democratic Leader Scott Inman released a statement rebuking the Facebook post.
“Certainly we should do all we can to reduce the number of our citizens – children, seniors, working mothers and others – who receive food stamps,” Inman stated. “But to compare them to animals is insulting, degrading, and not at all in the spirit of Christ. I hope that my friends and colleagues in the OK GOP will denounce posts like this one and instead focus on solutions to the challenges facing our poor and needy.”
After much backlash, the Oklahoma Republican Party deleted the post and released a statement apologizing for the post, saying it was not intended to be offensive.
"Last night, there was a post on our OKGOP Facebook page, and it was misinterpreted by many. I offer my apologies for those who were offended – that was not my intention.
This post was supposed to be an analogy that compared two situations illustrating the cycle of government dependency in America, not humans as animals.
However I do think that it’s important to have conversations about government welfare programs since our dependency on government is at its highest level ever.
Quoting President Reagan, “We should measure welfare’s success by how many people leave welfare, not by how many are added.”
As read in our Oklahoma Republican Statement of Principles, we believe that “free market principles are the best to stimulate our economic development rather than government subsidies or programs” and I was doing my best to echo that view.
Again, I apologize for any misconceptions that were created.
Governor Mary Fallin posted her statement on Facebook saying she was glad the OKGOP took down their post.
"I accept Chairman Brogdon's explanation that he was not intentionally disparaging any group of people and I appreciate him taking the post down," she said.