Four months later, Joni Ernst explains her bread bag story
Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa speaking at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) on Tuesday clarified her story about wearing bread bags over her shoes as a child.


During her response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address in January, Ernst touted her modest rural life as a child in Red Oak, Iowa.

“We were raised to live simply, not to waste. It was a lesson my mother taught me every rainy morning," she remarked. "You see, growing up, I had only one good pair of shoes. So on rainy school days, my mom would slip plastic bread bags over them to keep them dry."

"But I was never embarrassed. Because the school bus would be filled with rows and rows of young Iowans with bread bags slipped over their feet. Our parents may not have had much, but they worked hard for what they did have."

The comments sparked a mixture of confusion and mockery. PolitiFact even tried to determine whether kids in Iowa were actually running around with bread bags over their shoes. The fact-checking website concluded that the story did, in fact, resonate with many rural Iowans -- but those Iowans recalled wearing bread bags inside their shoes to prevent leaks, not outside their shoes.

"I wore them in my boots," Iowa Public Radio host Ben Kieffer explained in an interview with Ernest on Tuesday. "People were a little bit puzzled that you wore them outside your boots."

"No, no, the point was I didn't have the boots," Ernst replied.

"So I did have a nice pair of tennis shoes or a nice pairs of shoes that we would wear to school, so to protect those nice shoes, we wore bread bags over those shoes to protect them from the mud and the rain," she said.