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story.lead_photo.caption This screenshot shows a tweet posted by Rep. Stephen Meeks asserting that being poor "in America is a personal choice."

An Arkansas representative who wrote on Twitter that poverty is a "personal choice" has apologized to people offended by the post, which he said was poorly worded.

Rep. Stephen Meeks, R-Greenbrier, tweeted Saturday that being poor "in America is a personal choice, unless there are mitigating circumstances."

"A homeless man can go to school, get a job driving a truck making $70k per year and in 20 years become a millionaire," he wrote. "In America you can work hard and change your future - if you chose.”

In an interview, Meeks, a four-term legislator who is also a Papa John's Pizza delivery driver, said he originally wrote the tweet in response to a woman who said she was poor because of the government.

“I understand that there can be situations where there’s health issues, addiction, family circumstances, things like that,” he said. “But I also know from personal experience that someone in poverty can change that and change their life.”

Meeks ultimately deleted the post after receiving thousands of replies in response. Many of the responses were critical.

Meeks said he deleted the post because “things were getting out of hand.”

“A lot of those responses were negative, unfortunately people took the intent and twisted it,” he said.

Blake Rutherford, an Arkansas native and political commentator who served as advisor to three attorneys general, tweeted that Meeks has “no business serving in the legislature.”

Jesse Gibson, president of the Arkansas Trial Lawyers Association and chair of Little Rock Parks and Recreation, wrote that Meeks’ tweet was “the most tone deaf, insensitive, and clueless statement imaginable.”

Actor George Takei, who has more than 2.8 million followers on Twitter, also weighed in, calling Meeks a "completely moronic and out-of-touch representative."

Throughout Saturday, Meeks continued to issue tweets asserting instances in which the poor became wealthy, including a series of “myths” and “truths.”

On Sunday morning, Meeks tweeted again, calling the original post a "poorly worded tweet expressing my belief in the American dream."

“Based on the responses there are a lot of people who believe the American dream is out of reach," he added. "That is something we need to change. I apologize to anyone I offended that was not my intent.”

Some on Twitter continued to criticize the representative, writing that his apology did not address his assertion that those in poverty choose to be there.

Billy Fleming, an Arkansas native and former member of the White House Domestic Policy Council, wrote that the "wording wasn’t the problem."

"The sentiment that poor people are poor because they’re somehow defective was,” he wrote.


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Archived Comments

  • sjmays
    November 19, 2018 at 2:01 p.m.

    There are work at home opportunities for those in Arkansas who are able to access DSL. I live in a place that does not. I would have loved to work home during a time I was too sick to go out and work, but companies don't want to put their information ou over satellite because it is too slow and insecure.

    Also there are people who are yo sick even to work from home.

  • blueovalz
    November 19, 2018 at 2:05 p.m.

    I don't blame him for making statements like this. He's probably right at home with the folks that elected he, and most probably, the target of his misguided thoughts. The folks that elected him see a single or very limited view of their needs in their government. Anybody, regardless of their moral character, that fills even a single one of those needs, gets no further scrutiny. It was obvious many years ago that America became a country that celebrates ignorance, and the folks elected to office now days simply reflect that.

  • Longhaul
    November 19, 2018 at 2:06 p.m.

    If u r looking for a job contact "the Donald" maybe he will give you a job raking the forest in California to keep the fires down, what a idiot.

  • GeneralMac
    November 19, 2018 at 2:14 p.m.

    One week after graduating from high school I got hired at a good paying UNION packing plant lugging beef quarters.

    I was a poor farm boy from a run down farm.
    I convinced a local car dealer to sell me the cheapest car he had on the lot with no money down and payments.

    HARD physical work !

    I wish I had a dollar for everyone who said....." I never would work those long hours".."I never would work like a horse"

    10 months later I purchased a NEW 64 Malibu SS from that same dealer on only 2 year financing.

    I worked there 19 years.

    Ambitious people WORK.
    Lazy people find EXCUSES !

  • NoUserName
    November 19, 2018 at 2:17 p.m.

    BLS pegs the median truck driver salary at $42800/year or $20.42/hr. That's MEDIAN. Which means 1/2 of the drivers make less. Perhaps Meeks should use that Papa John's delivery money to buy a clue.
    ww w.bls.go v/ooh/transportation-and-material-moving/heavy-and-tractor-trailer-truck-drivers.htm
    While some people CAN pull themselves up from a tough situation, I'm sure it's also somewhat hard to sign up for school or get a job without a home address. Perhaps Meeks should volunteer to allow homeless to use his address.

  • GeneralMac
    November 19, 2018 at 2:26 p.m.

    Many of the homeless put themselves there due to drugs and alcohol.

    You can't expect to put drugs and alcohol on a higher priority than going to work everyday and being on time.

  • Delta2
    November 19, 2018 at 2:28 p.m.

    Amazing how stupid a politician can be and still get elected. I guess it speaks to the stupidity of the voters in his district.

  • hurricane46
    November 19, 2018 at 2:31 p.m.

    Sounds like Meeks "personal choice" is to be an idiot.

  • Justthefaqsmaam
    November 19, 2018 at 2:36 p.m.

    If you don’t have your high school diploma, most counties, if not all, have adult education centers where you can get your GED for free. Once you get your GED, representatives from the technical colleges are onsite once a week to counsel you and help you fill out the paperwork to obtain grants to further your education if desired. There is lots of money available to further your education if you go look for it. Especially if your a single parent.

  • eaglescout
    November 19, 2018 at 2:51 p.m.

    I don't understand what was so wrong with his comments. I was out of state this weekend and I was noticing all of the help wanted signs and wondered how anyone could not find a job if one was wanted. Of course, having a job means that they have to arrive on time, rested for a productive day and to provide value to their employer. Once they can show this they can rise above minimum wage and possible full-time employment with benefits. I have had employees tell me that I ask too much of them with these three basic tasks. Of course, I will not hire them.

    There was a time when education, job, then a family was the best order for success. Now the schools are "challenged", children are born out of wedlock, and some do not have the basic skills to provide value. Birth control to delay a family is really easy for someone who does not want to complicate their life at this time.

    I know a guy that complains of being temporarily employed and has no concept or knowledge of self-sufficiency with no plan for the future. People like this have been failed by parents and schools horribly.