An Ohio TV reporter stirred up a social media firestorm after mocking a panhandler on his Facebook page.
Tom Sussi, consumer watchdog for WSYX-TV, posted a photo Friday on his Facebook page showing a man standing with his head bowed near an expressway off-ramp in Columbus.
“It’s 7 am, and he’s out here bright and early begging for money,” Sussi posted. “The same exact spot where he stood when I drove by him last night around 7 pm.”
“Again, I ask: You have the stamina to get up at 7 am in the morning to panhandle, but you can’t use that energy to find a job?” Sussi continued. “This stuff really puzzles me.”
Sussi, who broadcast an investigative report on panhandler scams during May sweeps month, later deleted the post – but not before screen captures were saved showing his comments and the angry response to them.
“It’s just ignorant and uninformed and frankly dangerous ‘reporting,’” said Facebook user Lauren Wilson. “And it’s sad and super unfortunate how many people will believe this kind of garbage from someone who obviously has no business or education or expertise to be discussing these kind of circumstances and issues.”
Another Facebook user’s criticism drew a bizarre retort from Sussi, who is perhaps best known for his expose reports on restaurant cleanliness.
“I don’t have money to help the ones that need help, but it’s my job to also do what I can to help people, and make a difference,” said Christine Lynn Baker.
Another Facebook user chimed in to agree with Sussi, saying the panhandler clearly had enough time – if not facilities – to get cleaned up for a job, and he suggested the panhandler would rape a “bleeding heart” who offered help.
“Christine, can I come over and take a warm, soapy bath?” Sussi asked.
Sussi’s investigative report on panhandlers, which was apparently requested by some viewers, used hidden cameras and criminal background checks to suggest that some beggars may not deserve voluntary handouts from sympathetic passerby.
"It's easy money, it's all tax-free, and it pays better than a normal job," one panhandler told Sussi.
Watch the investigative report posted online by WSYX-TV: