Right-wing media brew up smear that Obama drinks too much


Following President Obama's first routine physical examination as president, the Drudge Report and right-wing blogs are seizing on a line from a memo from the chief White House physician about the results of the exam. In the "Recommendations" section of the memo, the president's physician writes that Obama:

Continue smoking cessation efforts, a daily exercise program, healthy diet, moderation in alcohol intake, periodic dental care, and remain up-to-date with recommended immunizations.

This may seem like a rather benign list of doctor's recommendations for any adult (smoker).

But not to the right-wing media. Instead, Drudge and some right-wing blogs are seizing on the line "moderation in alcohol intake" to suggest -- based on absolutely no evidence -- that the doctor asserted that Obama has been drinking too much and needs to moderate his alcohol intake.

Drudge used the phrase as his headline complete with a picture of Obama drinking a beer at a basketball game:

The right-wing blogs followed Drudge's lead. The Washington Times, in a post titled "Obama Boozing?", wrote:

The Guardian reports that President Obama's doctors have recommended he moderate his "alcohol intake." Most reportage on the president's recent physical has focused on Mr. Obama's continuing smoking habit, but revelation of a potential drinking problem is a much bigger story. How much "alcohol intake" does it take to get a doctor's attention? And what did the president drink and when did he drink it? If nothing else it might help explain some of Mr. Obama's policy priorities, and why the government is spending money like a drunken sailor. Consider Ann Althouse's blog post, titled: "How many beers a day would Obama need to be drinking before his doctor would recommend 'moderation of alcohol intake'?"

As for Ann Althouse, she has updated her post to acknowledge that the wording may have been misleading, but her post is still titled, "How many beers a day would Obama need to be drinking before his doctor would recommend 'moderation of alcohol intake'?"



It doesn't matter. Because a doctor would recommend "moderation in alcohol intake" to most healthy adults who aren't alcoholics.

In her post, Althouse writes:

Considering that there is a great deal of research showing that it is a positive health benefit for a man to drink 1 or 2 beers a day, I would think that a 6 foot 1 1/2 inch man like Obama could easily drink 3 or 4 beers a day without there being an actual negative effect of concern to a doctor.

How much is Obama drinking?

Putting aside Althouse's playing armchair physician speculating on how much Obama could drink, her suggestion that a routine doctor's recommendation of moderate alcohol use means that Obama is drinking more than 3 or 4 beers a day is ridiculous.

There's absolutely no evidence in the memo that Obama drinks anything more than a moderate amount of alcohol, which, even Althouse notes, can have a "positive health benefit" (if it's beer or wine).

After a commenter called Althouse out on her original post, she conceded:

Recommending "moderation of" is completely different from recommending continuation of "moderation in." Reading the original report, I'd say the doctor told Obama that the amount he was drinking was just fine.

Good thing Althouse -- a law professor -- carefully read the memo before suggesting the president of the United States has a drinking problem.

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