Fargo Leaders to Ed Schultz: Kids Helping Stop Flood Aren't 'Slave Labor'

The mayor of Fargo, N.D., sure knows what he's talking about.

Dennis Walaker was one of three city and school officials quoted in a Forum of Fargo-Moorhead newspaper story rebuking liberal radio host Ed Schultz for his churlish criticism of local eighth-graders being recruited for sandbagging to help stem spring floods. (Audio clip after page break)

The newspaper ran the story in response to a NewsBusters post on Tuesday about Schultz's remarks.

First, here is what Schultz said (audio) --

Broadcasting from the city that has no bones about asking eighth-graders to come down to the facility and start making sandbags so the wealthy people don't have to pay for a dike. Good ol' Fargo, Nort' Dakota. That's how they flood fight. It's called slave labor. Make 'em think they're really building character. In fact, they have to build character every spring! The college kids, I think, have figured it out. Screw you! So now they're picking on the eighth graders.

Walaker's pithy response -- "Consider the source."

"All the kids have permission slips from their parents," Walaker told the Forum. "They are fed extremely well. They are enthusiastic in contributing to the community. So, I think the term 'slave labor' is incorrect, totally."

Fargo public schools superintendent Jeff Schatz was also dismissive of Schultz's comments. "Our students have been involved in many different flood-fighting capacities over the past several years," he said. "It's a good way for them to get involved in their community. We're just a piece of the big picture of the whole flood fight."

Eighth-grade students from three local middle schools are taking part in a 10-day campaign to fill one million sandbags. As of yesterday, the Forum reported, 876,000 sandbags had been filled.

"We don't force them to do anything," Schatz told the Forum. "Kids are rallying together and doing a great job. All reports we've had have been good."

Ben Franklin Middle School principal John Nelson told the paper that former students have cited their volunteer work against flooding as a positive experience.

"Community service is something that we want to instill in all of our children," Nelson said. "So, here is an opportunity where we can help and we can have some fun doing it."

Mayor Walaker also "scoffed" at Schultz's claim that sandbagging efforts protect only Fargo's "wealthy" residents. Walaker described the work as "the first line of defense against the river," the Forum reported.

Schultz, meanwhile, continues waiting on a start date for the weekend edition of "The Ed Show" after MSNBC booted the program from its weeknight primetime lineup in mid-March. Since then, Schultz has focused on his radio show that he broadcasts from "the Northern Tier" -- his euphemism for Fargo. With all that extra time on his hands after "The Ed Show" was consigned to limbo over the last month, you'd think Schultz might want to help fill a few sandbags. Don't hold your breath. This would brush too close to "slavery" for Schultz's comfort.

Jack Coleman
Jack Coleman
Ex-liberal from People's Republic of Massachusetts