Conservative media falsely claim obesity task force "is cutting into our diets and our rights"
Research ››› ››› TOM ALLISON
Conservative media have attacked a White House task force's report that recommends voluntary measures to combat the nation's childhood obesity problem as "cutting into our diets and our rights." However, the report makes recommendations for the food industry to voluntarily follow -- not federal mandates.
Conservative media claim administration "seeks controls on food marketing"
Drudge: "White House seeks controls on food marketing." From the Drudge Report, accessed May 11:
Morrissey: "They want to use whatever power they have to limit choices to children and adults, and interpose themselves in place of parents." Hot Air blogger Ed Morrissey wrote in a May 11 post that the task force recommendations "put the nanny in nanny-state government." Morrissey also wrote: "They want to use whatever power they have to limit choices to children and adults, and interpose themselves in place of parents."
Hannity: "Does every American family need a dietician appointed by the government?" On the May 11 edition of his Fox News show, Sean Hannity said: "We now, in our government, have a government obesity task force, all right? An Obama government obesity task force." Hannity asked: "Does every American family need a dietician appointed by the government to tell them that this food is going to make you fat and this food is not?"
Fox teaser: "How the first lady's task force is cutting into our diets and our rights." Fox News repeatedly ran a promotion for Hannity's May 12 show that stated: "No soda. No snacks. No choice? How the first lady's task force on childhood obesity is cutting into our diets and our rights."
Report offers voluntary recommendations to food industry
Report calls for "providing guidance to industry on voluntary initiatives." The White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity report included in its "recommendations": "The Federal government can play a crucial role in improving the media environment for children with respect to the marketing of foods and beverages. It can do so while fully respecting the First Amendment right to free speech." The report stated that "[p]roviding guidance to industry on voluntary initiatives" is part of that role. It further recommended: "The food and beverage industry should extend its self-regulatory program to cover all forms of marketing to children, and food retailers should avoid in-store marketing that promotes unhealthy products to children." [White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity Report to the President, 5/11/10]
Report stated "the FCC could consider revisiting and modernizing rules" if voluntary recommendations fail. The report also stated: "If voluntary efforts to limit the marketing of less healthy foods and beverages to children do not yield substantial results, the FCC could consider revisiting and modernizing rules on commercial time during children's programming" [emphasis added].
Michelle Obama: "Not a single expert that we've consulted has said that having the federal government tell people what to do is the way to solve this." In her remarks unveiling the plan, Michelle Obama said: "But we've also known ... from the very beginning that the solution to this epidemic isn't going to come from just Washington alone. Not a single expert that we've consulted has said that having the federal government tell people what to do is the way to solve this." [WhiteHouse.gov, 5/11/10]
CBS: Administration not advocating "any new federal mandates to push the changes." CBSNews.com reported that "administration officials repeatedly emphasized the effort would rely on 'bully pulpit' pressure and not any new federal mandates to push the changes." The article also reported that Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz said: "A regulatory approach is certainly not where we want to start. ...You start by pushing self-regulation, by pushing your bully pulpit; sometimes shaming companies that don't do enough." [CBSNews.com, 5/11/10]
Media conservatives previously claimed the Obama administration is "seizing our salt shakers"
Right-wing media invoked fear that big government is coming for your salt shaker. Following reports that the Food and Drug Administration was considering regulating the amount of salt in processed food, media conservatives falsely claimed that the Obama administration is "seizing our salt shakers." In fact, the FDA review had nothing to do with consumers' use of table salt and instead involved examining warnings about high sodium content in processed foods and restaurant meals, the sources of 77 percent of sodium intake.
Fox misrepresents New York's voluntary initiative as a government mandate. Following the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene's January announcement of a National Salt Reduction Initiative, Fox News anchors and personalities misrepresented the initiative as a mandatory program, despite the health department's statement that "[t]argets are voluntary, not mandatory, so they cannot force products off the market."