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Agri rebukes Obama over criticism

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An attorney for Agriprocessors rebuked criticism of the firm’s hiring practice by Barack Obama.

Nathan Lewin, who is representing the largest kosher meat producer in the United States, in a statement released early Tuesday wondered whether the Democratic presidential hopeful had weighed the evidence in the case or considered the company’s repeated denials.

On Monday, Obama said the company had hired underage workers to avoid paying decent wages and benefits.

“This is a shocking statement from a former president of the Harvard Law Review and former constitutional law professor who has sworn, as a United States Senator, to uphold the Constitution which prescribes a presumption of innocence until guilt is proved beyond a reasonable doubt,” Lewin’s statement said.

Campaigning Monday in Davenport, Iowa, Obama fielded a question about the company, which was recently the target of a massive federal immigration raid at its plant in Postville.

“We’ve got to crack down on employers who are taking advantage of undocumented workers,” Obama said. “When you read about a meatpacking plant hiring 13-year-olds, 14-year-olds – that is some of the most dangerous, difficult work there is.”

Obama, who did not mention Agriprocessors by name, said the children were “wielding buzz saws and cleavers.”

“It’s ridiculous,” he said. “And the only reason they’re hiring these folks is because they want to avoid paying decent wages and providing decent benefits.”

Obama’s criticism followed the publication Sunday of an Op-Ed by Iowa governor and fellow Democrat Chet Culver in which he said Agriprocessors had “taken the low road” in its business practices.

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