Former Republican House member and Benghazi-investigator Jason Chaffetz resigned from the House on June 30th this year and became a Fox News contributor literally one day later. The new gig means Chaffetz gets to spend time in New York City and engage in a favorite conservative pastime: taking pictures that show how allegedly godless and filthy New York is. This time, instead of picking on an empty brandy bottle, like fellow Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham did, Chaffetz used social media to publicly shame a random homeless man near Times Square. Compassionate conservatism!
Chaffetz took the above photo of a homeless man using a smartphone yesterday morning and simply captioned it "NYC Times Sq 6:53am streaming video on a phone." Since it didn't have any followup such as "You can help the city's homeless by donating or volunteering to one of these many organizations," one is only left to assume that this is some kind of commentary on how the homeless have it easy here in the Big Apple.
Beyond the casual cruelty of snapping a homeless person's picture to prove some kind of vague point, Chaffetz apparently doesn't seem to mind reminding everyone in the world about his previous problems with smartphones. It was Chaffetz, after all, who provided a world historical bad soundbite while pitching the GOP's healthcare plan this year:
And so maybe rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love and they want to go spend hundreds of dollars on that, maybe they should invest in their own health care. They've got to make those decisions themselves.
Civil liberties attorney Norman Siegel suggested that Chaffetz was too quick to jump to conclusions when he took the man's picture.
"He should have used his investigative skills he honed on the Oversight Committee to find out more about the person," Siegel told Gothamist. "You can find out a lot about a person if you talk to them for five minutes." And even if Chaffetz had talked with the man and found out "he used whatever money he got from people, New Yorkers are good-natured people, why should we make any negative judgments about that? He's still on the street, possibly without a job. We should try to hep these people, not put them in a negative light."
Siegel also told Gothamist that cellphones are "so essential in this modern century," and that "although it was striking to see a homeless person with a cell phone you can't make a negative judgement" about them.
"The larger question becomes," Siegel said, "do you show compassion and empathy for people who are down and out and on the streets, even if they're wearing something nice or have a jacket on in the winter or they're reading a book?"