Barack Obama Did Sort of Run a Lemonade Stand

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/whitehouse/7161177656/">Pete Souza</a>/White House photo

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New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte was reading from the GOP script on Tuesday when she told a mostly-full Tampa Times Forum that President Obama “never even ran a lemonade stand.” It was a point the Republican party chairman, Reince Preibus, had made just a few hours earlier: “President Obama’s never run a company,” Preibus told the assembled delegates. “He hasn’t even run a garage sale or seen the inside of a lemonade stand.”

It’s a compelling line designed to hammer home Mitt Romney’s core message—the President has never worked a real job and he doesn’t know anything about business. The problem is it’s entirely false.

As Politifact detailed in 2009, in response to a similar allegation from MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, Obama held a number of retail and food service jobs as a teenager in Hawaii—including scooping ice cream at Baskin-Robbins, which technically doesn’t serve lemonade but it does have a pink rasberry lemonade sorbet: 

1975 or 1976 — ice cream scooper, Baskin-Robbins — Honolulu — Obama claims to have lost his taste for ice cream during this, his first job, the duration of which is not publicly known.

Date unknown — deli counter clerk, business name unknown — Honolulu — Obama had a summer job at a deli counter in Hawaii, making sandwiches, his spokesman said during the presidential campaign.

1980 — gift shop sales clerk, business name unknown — Honolulu — Obama worked at a gift shop in Hawaii selling island souvenirs the summer after his freshman year at Occidental College in California.

As Politifact noted, Obama held private-sector jobs as an adult as well, including posts at a Chicago law firm and a New York City company that helped American companies do business abroad—exactly the kind of experience Romney is accusing Obama of lacking. It’s a myth that hasn’t received as much attention as Romney’s debunked charges about Obama’s welfare policies, but in accusing the President of being coddled and oblivious, it’s no less pernicious.

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You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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