Continuing his pattern of disparaging remarks about low-income Americans, Cunningham criticized "fat poor people"

››› ››› GREG LEWIS

Resuming his attacks on the poor, Bill Cunningham stated that "[w]e're about the only country in the world with fat poor people" and that "the poor community, so to speak ... have cell phones, they have pagers, they have telephones, they have cars, they have HDTV, and they have those things because they spend no money on food, because it's all given to them for nothing." He added: "Why would a grocery store open in the poor community when everyone gets fed free and they eat too much?"

Radio host Bill Cunningham resumed his attacks on the poor during the December 4 broadcast of his Cincinnati-based show. After declaring that "[w]e're about the only country in the world with fat poor people," Cunningham stated that "the poor community, so to speak ... have cell phones, they have pagers, they have telephones, they have cars, they have HDTV, and they have those things because they spend no money on food, because it's all given to them for nothing." He added: "Why would a grocery store open in the poor community when everyone gets fed free and they eat too much?"

Contrary to Cunningham's suggestion that "poor people" are "fat" simply because "they eat too much," studies have shown a correlation between low-cost foods -- which tend to be less healthy -- and obesity. For instance, a study published in the January 2004 edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that "[m]any health disparities in the United States are linked to inequalities in education and income." The report further stated:

First, the highest rates of obesity occur among population groups with the highest poverty rates and the least education. Second, there is an inverse relation between energy density (MJ/kg) and energy cost ($/MJ), such that energy-dense foods composed of refined grains, added sugars, or fats may represent the lowest-cost option to the consumer. Third, the high energy density and palatability of sweets and fats are associated with higher energy intakes, at least in clinical and laboratory studies. Fourth, poverty and food insecurity are associated with lower food expenditures, low fruit and vegetable consumption, and lower-quality diets. A reduction in diet costs in linear programming models leads to high-fat, energy-dense diets that are similar in composition to those consumed by low-income groups. Such diets are more affordable than are prudent diets based on lean meats, fish, fresh vegetables, and fruit. The association between poverty and obesity may be mediated, in part, by the low cost of energy-dense foods and may be reinforced by the high palatability of sugar and fat. This economic framework provides an explanation for the observed links between socioeconomic variables and obesity when taste, dietary energy density, and diet costs are used as intervening variables. More and more Americans are becoming overweight and obese while consuming more added sugars and fats and spending a lower percentage of their disposable income on food.

Similarly, a study (subscription required) published in December 2007 in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association stated:

The finding that energy-dense foods are not only the least expensive, but also most resistant to inflation, may help explain why the highest rates of obesity continue to be observed among groups of limited economic means. The sharp price increase for the low-energy-density foods suggests that economic factors may pose a barrier to the adoption of more healthful diets and so limit the impact of dietary guidance.

As Media Matters for America has documented, Cunningham has previously made disparaging remarks toward low-income Americans on his radio show:

  • On his October 28 broadcast, during a discussion with Jack Malanga, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, Cunningham said: "You know, people are poor in America, Steve, not because they lack money; they're poor because they lack values, morals, and ethics. And if government can't teach and instill that, we're wasting our time simply giving poor people money." Earlier in the show, Cunningham stated that "unlike many countries in the world, Steve, we have fat poor people. We don't have skinny poor people. Ours are fat and flatulent."
  • Cunningham stated on his October 27 broadcast, "Among the so-called noble poor in America ... [b]irth control is not used so illegitimate children can be brought into the world, so the mom can get more checks in the mail from the government." Cunningham then added: "And then once the child is born, that is the key to financial riches in the poor communities -- white and black -- in America. And that key is Section 8 housing and vouchers; the key is food stamps, no work -- if you work you're punished."

From the December 4 broadcast of Clear Channel's The Big Show with Bill Cunningham:

CUNNINGHAM: You know, my -- my grandmother talked about selling apples at 20th and Scott Street in Covington in the 1930s during the Great Depression. Now people are buying Apple computer. So, a Depression was selling apples; now, it's using an Apple computer. You know -- you know, most parts of the world riot when someone throws a bag of rice in the dirt. We riot to get to Wal-Mart.

JOHN TAMNY (editor, RealClearMarkets.com): Yeah, no, again, we must be rich. I don't -- I don't know what everyone's complaining about, but, you know, it's just a very important point to remind people -- but, I mean, think -- Wal-Mart's a good example. Wal-Mart could give all of its profits to its employees who'd go out and spend the money. But then Wal-Mart wouldn't have the money to expand and create new jobs. And so we have to remind people that spending itself is not an economic stimulus necessarily. You need savings so that businesses can grow.

CUNNINGHAM: We're about the only country in the whole world with fat poor people. And we're told every time at Thanksgiving and Christmas how the -- how the pantry shelves are empty because we're handing out free food. I mean, I'm surprised anybody spends money at Kroger. And the poor community, so to speak, when they have cell phones, they have pagers, they have telephones, they have cars, they have HDTV, and they have those things because they spend no money on food, because it's all given to them for nothing. Why would a grocery store open in the poor community when everyone gets fed free and they eat too much?

TAMNY: It's -- it's a great point. And I think the other thing that needs to be -- come from what you just said there is the next time we hear about how there's 40 million uninsured Americans in terms of health, I want you to remind the person who comes on and says that about the cell phones and HDTVs and cars that the poor people have -- I think they can afford insurance, too.

CUNNINGHAM: They could, but they -- they elect not to do it.

TAMNY: They know that we'll pay for them. Yeah, yeah, 'cause they know they can go to the hospital and get free health care regardless, because someone like -- like you is going to pay for it, so there you go.

Posted In
Economy, Poverty, Health Care
Network/Outlet
Clear Channel, 700WLW
Person
Bill Cunningham
Show/Publication
The Big Show with Bill Cunningham
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