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Washington Post Headline Takes GOP Congressman’s Biblical Quote Out of Context

Rep. Jodey Arrington (R., Texas) / AP
• March 31, 2017 2:47 pm

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A Friday Washington Post headline took a Republican congressman's use of a biblical quote out of context, making it appear that he does not support feeding unemployed Americans.

"GOP lawmaker: The Bible says the unemployed ‘shall not eat,'" read the original headline on the Post‘s Wonkblog.. The story is based on remarks made Tuesday by Texas Rep. Jodey Arrington during a meeting of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Nutrition.

Despite the story being about Arrington's quote, the Post never actually provided his full comments in the original story, which has seen been updated.

Instead the article simply summarized that "Rep. Jodey Arrington (R-Tex.) recently quoted the New Testament to question the strength of current work requirements," and reported that the verse in question was "2 Thessalonians 3-10 [sic]."

However, neither Arrington nor the Bible verse in question said that "the unemployed" and others who do not work "shall not eat." Arrington was clear that he was speaking about the unemployed who could work but willingly choose not to.

Here are Arrington's full remarks:

I did hear … your opening remarks where you quoted Leviticus I believe, and I think that's a great reflection on the character of God and the compassion of God's heart and how we ought to reflect that compassion in our lives. But there's also–the Scripture tells us in 2 Thessalonians chapter 3:10: "For even when we were with you we gave you this rule: ‘If a man will not work, he shall not eat.'" And then he goes on to say, "We hear that some among you are idle."

I think that every American–Republican or Democrat–wants to help the neediest among us. And I think it's a reasonable expectation that we have work requirements. I think that gives more credibility, quite frankly, to [the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program]. My question to you … tell me what is a reasonable and responsible work requirement as part of the SNAP program?

The Post headline contained no qualifier, and made it appear that Arrington supports cutting off food aid to all unemployed Americans. But the lawmaker said he supports the existing requirements that recipients make concerted efforts to work or find work.

The article has since been updated to provide most of the quote and change the headline to: "GOP lawmaker: The Bible says ‘if a man will not work, he shall not eat.'

The misleading headline comes two weeks after another headline in the Post claimed that "Immigrants are going hungry so Trump won't deport them." Eight paragraphs into that story, however, the paper admitted there was no actual evidence that immigrants were increasingly going hungry under Trump. Both stories were written by reporter Cailtin Dewey.

Published under: Media Bias, Religion, Washington Post