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Thursday, December 19, 2013 - 11:20am

Kingston Not Backing Down On No 'Free Lunch' Claim

U.S. Congressman Jack Kingston is not taking back his remarks that students on free and reduced school lunch should have to pay or “sweep the floor” for their meals.

Kingston, who is running for U.S. Senate, made those comments over the weekend to the Jackson County Republican Party. A video of Kingston’s talk has gone viral after The Huffington Post uploaded it to its website Wednesday.

“Why don’t you have the kids pay a dime, pay a nickel to instill in them that there is, in fact, no such thing as a free lunch? Or maybe sweep the floor of the cafeteria,” Kingston said in the video.

The Congressman responded to critics Thursday, saying the short video was taken from a “broader discussion.”

“It’s not picking on kids at all and you know, when I was going to school, I had chores that I did and it wasn’t necessarily a requirement, I’m just saying you know, is it possible to you know for say, high school kids to contribute and would that not help their own self esteem? Would that not be a positive thing?” asked Kingston. “Now, maybe it’s not a good idea, but the status quo isn’t working and can we not do a better job for these children?”

When asked if he wished he had not made the comment, Kingston said he saw it as an educational opportunity.

“I’d say certainly you can learn from this--that I can learn from it. So, there’s no question. But you know, in terms of ideas, I just have ideas and I think that’s what America needs right now is ideas and some of those ideas may have some merit and some don’t have merit, but I’ve always wondered is there a better way to create a work ethic in America and are we losing opportunities? And so as much as anything, it’s a challenge to people: what’s a better idea than the status quo?”

Kingston is one of several Republicans running to replace retiring U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss.