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Ravell Call, Deseret News
FILE - U.S. Sen Orrin Hatch is taking heat over a tweet.

SALT LAKE CITY — U.S. Sen Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, is taking heat over a tweet.

Not about politics, governing, or what his office maintains is a Civil War-era turn of phrase.

The Senate's senior Republican took to Twitter Thursday around dinnertime to comment on foreign pork.

Hatch posted a link to an article about 18 British piglets that had been saved from a barn fire in February and recently were returned, albeit in casing, to the same firefighters as a thank-you gift. Officers barbecued them at the Pewsey Fire Station in western England, the BBC reported Thursday.

"This is really beautiful," read the tweet from the Hatch office account, commenting on the firefighters' gifted lunch from nearly 5,000 miles away.

Soon after the tweet hit his timeline, social media started crackling.

Some questioned if the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee or his staff read even as far as the summary of the story. Did he understand the piglets were rescued alongside their mothers, only to be tossed back into flames, gobbled up, and declared "fantastic" by their one-time saviors?

Not everyone threw Hatch into the fire. Some said his admiration should have been easy to digest.

Others characterized the 83-year-old senator as an underappreciated comic, pointing to the tweet as sweet, sardonic proof.

Still more were filled with compassion — for the pigs, not the politician.

These little piggies earned a second shot at life, they pointed out. Would have been nice to let them keep it.

Earlier in the day, in western England, the responders issued an apology via Facebook. But the farmers told reporters their piglets were raised to be butchered and couldn't realistically be kept as pets.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals disagreed. PETA said the piglets were "no better off" and vowed to send the firefighters packs of vegan sausages.

Late Thursday, as the heat turned up, Hatch clarified his earlier expression.

He took the opportunity to plug Utah's own pork producers.

The 83-year-old senator was born to a large family in the Uintah Basin, but to a metalworker father, not a farmer, according to a biography on his Senate website. He followed in his father's footsteps for a time.

His affinity for the story this week, however, could be linked to his current day job.

Lawmaking commonly is compared to the ugly process of producing sausage. The legislator in his seventh term may have felt a kinship with the livestock farmers and butchers who make their livelihood an ocean away.