GREENVILLE, SC (WIS) — Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer is defending his comment which compared government assistance programs to "feeding stray animals."
Bauer made the comparison during a town hall meeting Friday in Fountain Inn. He was saying poor parents of students who eat free or reduced-price meals in school cafeterias should be required to attend parent-teacher conferences, or the students should go without.
"My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed," Bauer said, according to the Greenville News. "You're facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don't think too much further than that. And so what you've got to do is you've got to curtail that type of behavior. They don't know any better."
The gubernatorial candidate said the government can't afford to keep giving money away without requiring something in return. He said poor people should lose their benefits if they don't pass drug tests, and parents should be required to be more active in their children's education.
But Bauer's comment drew nationwide controversy and criticism as soon as it was reported. On Saturday, Bauer defended his remarks at a gubernatorial forum in Columbia.
"There's no way that I was trying to tie animals to people, but what I was trying to talk about is the dependency culture, and just like when you feed an animal, you create a dependency," he said.
South Carolina's Democratic Party chairwoman doesn't buy Bauer's explanation.
"Andre Bauer's crude utterances once again reveal his immaturity and poor judgment," responded Carol Fowler. "Bauer is a bachelor who has never once had to worry about feeding a child of his own. His notion of punishing children by not feeding them because their parents missed a PTA meeting flies in the face of basic South Carolina values."
Fowler agrees that parents need to be more involved, but that parents should be educated by the school system to do so.
"I don't think it should be the lieutenant governor talking at town hall meetings," said Fowler. "None of those parents are listening to that. I guess they'll hear about it when their child's lunch gets cut."
Democratic candidates have also come out to speak against Bauer.
State Superintendent Jim Rex says Bauer should apologize, stating "if his intent was to blame children, who are not responsible for their own predicaments ... it is regrettable."
Candidate Mullins McLeod said, "It amazes me how some Republican politicians claim a monopoly on Christianity and then go out and say and do some of the most un-Christian things imaginable."
"I really think it's deplorable that people are making this so political when they don't have the backbone to find any solutions or any ways to change, just keep it the same," said Fowler.