Legislator under fire for food stamp comments

Leaders of Minnesota’s Republican Party are denouncing harassing phone calls and emails received by Rep. Mary Franson , R-Alexandria, in the wake of a video Franson released last week in which she seemed to compare food stamp recipients to animals. Franson later apologized and the video was removed, but the controversy continues.

“Today is a sad day in Minnesota, with malicious, hate-filled attacks threatening physical violence against Rep. Franson and her three children,” said Republican Party Chairman Pat Shortridge and Deputy Chairwoman Kelly Fenton in a written statement Tuesday night. “This might be the kind of Chicago-style politics that has, unfortunately, infected too many corners of public life, but it sure isn’t the Minnesota way.”

The statement provided excerpts from from what GOP officials said were graphic calls and emails, which included insults and physical threats.

The controversy began last Friday when Franson posted a video updating her constituents on work at the Legislature. Here’s what Franson said in the video:

“Last week we worked on some welfare reform bills. And here, it’s kind of ironic, I’ll read you this little funny clip we got from a friend.

It says, ‘Isn’t it ironic that the food stamp program, part of the Department of Agriculture, is pleased to be distributing the greatest amount of food stamps ever? Meanwhile, the Park Service, also part of the Department of Agriculture, asks us to please not feed the animals, because the animals may grow dependent and not learn to take care of themselves.’

Our reform bills are meant to bring people up out of the clutches of poverty. We want to provide a safety net, no longer a safety hammock.’

In the video Franson mentions a bill sponsored by Rep. Kurt Daudt , R-Crown, that would reduce the amount of time a person can receive welfare benefits.

Franson’s statements in the video continue to draw criticism from liberals. The Alliance for a Better Minnesota is asking people to demand an apology on YouTube. The Welfare Rights Committee plans to rally at the State Capitol on Thursday demanding Franson’s resignation.

The Huffington Post wrote about the story, and the conversation continues on Franson’s Twitter page.

Meanwhile, anti-hunger groups and Gov. Dayton’s administration are working to get more eligible Minnesotans to sign up for food stamps. Right now, only about 65 percent of those eligible are on the program.