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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

  • PopMom
    November 20, 2018 at 5:50 a.m.

    These are some very harsh statements. Packman is correct that a woman tends to do better if she stays childless, but don't we want children in this world? Some women become poor simply because their no good husbands leave them with a couple of kids. It's not easy for women to try to hold down a job, pay for daycare, and pursue their ex in court for child support. Some people are poor because they have low IQs or are disabled--either from birth or due to environmental issues or accidents. Some are born into pockets of poverty with bad local schools and little in the way of opportunities to become educated or to improve themselves. Yes, some are poor due to bad life decisions or bad luck.

  • Nodmcm
    November 20, 2018 at 5:54 a.m.

    Straight-up Nazi. A car wreck, a big lawsuit, a debilitating illness, and any of us could be poor. How about folks born disabled? Their choice, eh, Himmler?

  • Nodmcm
    November 20, 2018 at 6:07 a.m.

    We forget capitalism is a competitive system. The whole point is to separate other people from their money, until one of us has all of it. Just like the board game Monopoly, the goal is to make everyone else a loser (poor). So the fact that some people are better at capitalism than other people is no surprise, and the fact that our societal structure also sets many people up to fail economically is denied by those of us born into privilege and wealth. How is it fair that one baby is born to millionaire parents, and the other is born to a drug-addicted prostitute barely making ends meet?

  • GeneralMac
    November 20, 2018 at 9:34 a.m.

    "unless there are mitigating circumstances"

    All the liberal loudmouths overlooked the qualifier by Meeks.

  • mrcharles
    November 20, 2018 at 10:34 a.m.

    Oh I must remind you of the deity type thinkers, there are theological issues here. Read your ancient book.

    As to GM , the resident understudy to himmler, he thinks not. The qualifier is in the devil of the details. His ILK believe unless you are in a coma, there is no mitigating circumstances. Note the man from fox who stated, Heck fire, golle gee , these people got microwaves, shoes and refrigerators , so to say poverty is just a socialist liberal lie. Therefore no children go to bed hungry and , if they did, the reich wing ILKS here say that is over blown, just like the number of slaves who died on the trip over here to the judeo-christian land of slave holders, or the number of indigenous natives to our land that were moved/infected/slaughtered to make room for judeo-christians- as was stated by a celestial decoder, "Look there is a car chase!", no I mean he said , Look them there indians are all gone from certain areas of land, therefore god mustof gave the land to the new Israelite, us.

    popmon succinctly stated the barriers in the way of some-always appreciate her outlook on things . Read your Ecclesiastes for learning stuff happens.

    Many can see the pain that the right feels in these issues, they just take such glee in their chastisement that they dont see the forest for the trees.

    If I told you he was your brother
    We could reminisce
    Then you would go about your day
    If I said you ought to give him some of your water
    You'd shake your canteen and walk away

  • GeneralMac
    November 20, 2018 at 11:02 a.m.

    Nothing has changed in 30 years.

    1988.....a massive drought hit MN and I was forced to sell my dairy herd and return to the workforce.

    I heard a boat works 22 miles away was expanding and doubling its workforce from 325-650 employees.

    I was disappointed to learn that hiring was done based on a new State program that encouraged people to get off welfare. The State would reimburse the company 30% of the wage to cover "training" to get the person employed and off welfare.

    I did not qualify because I was not on welfare nor was I a resident of that county.
    However, the guy at the State office screening applicants said he would send my application in with a note I was NOT ELIGIBLE for training reimbursement.

    I was the ONLY non-welfare , non-resident hired.
    Hard work, good pay, good benefits, lots of overtime .

    One day after work I had a dental appointment downtown near the State office.
    I dropped in and THANKED the guy for forwarding my application.

    He nearly fell out of his chair !
    He called a woman over from another desk and said I had THANKED him for getting me a job.

    Both said NO ONE of the 324 welfare people ever used the word "THANKS"
    Both said they had been SWORN AT for sending welfare recepiants to a job with hard work.

    Both said the past few months was the most THANKLESS work they ever did !

  • Packman
    November 20, 2018 at 11:11 a.m.

    Hey PopMom - Of course we want kids in this world. Having kids when you are on secure financial footing is still having kids! Again, the root causes of poverty and how to avoid it ain't rocket science. Most people are "poor" either by choice or due to bad decision making, excepting those that are physically or mentally disabled.
    Hey NODMCM - "How is it fair that one baby is born to millionaire parents, and the other is born to a drug-addicted prostitute barely making ends meet?" It's fair like a coin flip is fair in determining heads or tails. Fairness, however, has nothing whatsoever to do with individuals working hard and making good life decisions. Am I wrong to assume you are a socialist?

  • GeneralMac
    November 20, 2018 at 11:14 a.m.

    EXAMPLE...... on my crew was a single mom, age 20, 3 kids

    After a hard 10 hour shift she was depressed so the foreman went to ask what was wrong.

    She said..."they" won't let me quit and go back drawing benefits. I work so hard , lots of overtime and feel I am no better off than before I got sent here"

    Foreman said........." but NOW you are fully self suficent and supporting yourself and kids on your own"

    "Big f'nnnn deal " she shouted at the foreman.

    When one sees no difference sitting on their ass and sucking govt welfare $$$$$$$$$$ as opposed to WORKING,we are in trouble.

    30 years later and nothing has changed.
    Liberals say it's " cruel" to have able bodied young people meet minimum criteria to recieve tax payer paid $$$$$$$$$$ health insurance.

    30 years later and nothing has changed.

  • JJoutlaw
    November 20, 2018 at 11:32 a.m.

    He said nothing false. Some people just can’t stand straight talk. They would rather play victim.

  • Illinoisroy
    November 20, 2018 at 11:59 a.m.

    Good to hear the Christian perspective. WWJD?