When John Sexton wrote about 11 year old Frank Giaccio getting to mow the White House lawn, he seemed to be taking a tongue-in-cheek tone when he wondered if anyone would invoke child labor laws to criticize the President. I mean, seriously now… who could be that insane?
I half-expected Salon or maybe Slate to run this story under the headline, “Trump violates child labor laws at the White House.” So far it seems only a handful of nuts on Twitter are bringing up child labor laws, so maybe this means President Trump is slowly becoming “nomalized.”
Not so fast, John. We can debate the definition of “a handful of nuts on Twitter” at some other point, but Fox News found at least one person with a larger platform who was taking the charges seriously.
Steven Greenhouse, who worked for the Times for 31 years and still writes for the paper on occasion, took issue with the feel-good story of the boy, Frank Giaccio, of Falls Church, Va., who showed up at the White House Friday to cut the grass at the invitation of President Trump.
“Not sending a great signal on child labor, minimum wage & occupational safety >> Trump White House lets a 10-year-old volunteer mow its lawn,” Greenhouse, who covered unions for much of his time at the newspaper, tweeted.
The Daily Wire website slammed Greenhouse’s tweet as the “dumbest” ever posted on Twitter.
Others were just as critical.
“The sanctimonious and humorless finger-wagging of nanny state progressivism in one tweet,” conservative commentator and journalist Bill Kristol tweeted.
Greenhouse attempted to defend himself by citing his extensive experience in writing about child labor law violations and the danger of children being injured by machinery. From a high level perspective I suppose there’s something to that. I’m not sure we should be hiring eleven year olds to run industrial stamping machines or tunnel grinders, but we’re talking about a lawnmower here.
I was mowing lawns for spare cash when I was Frank’s age and my family never objected. (In fact, I got some rather painful objections if I failed to mow ours.) From the videos which were released, it seems as if Frank is very comfortable operating a mower and is even running his own yard work business back home.
Obviously this was a public relations stunt on one side and probably the opportunity of a (young) lifetime on the other. Having some enterprising kid show up to mow the White House lawn and make a few bucks is great imagery for President Trump. As for Frank, I’m guessing he’ll be getting more customers back home in addition to having a story to tell his friends which he’ll be getting mileage out of forever.
The fact that they already have people to mow the Rose Garden lawn and had no real need of Frank isn’t the issue here. If you want to call out the administration for using the kid as a political prop, feel free to do so. But the fact is that nobody forced him to do it and, in fact, Frank sent a letter to the President begging for the chance. If there were any child labor laws broken here then most of the country is going to wind up in jail before long. So yes… this is just one more example of why we can’t have nice things. But I’ll give John credit for predicting this one as soon as the mower blade had stopped spinning.