Fox has a long history of attacking any plan to fight childhood obesity or encourage healthier eating -- but Fox & Friends may have reached a new low today when they attacked McDonald's for voluntarily making Happy Meals healthier, then hosted a “nutritionist” to defend “mac and cheese” as part of a “different culture.”
Their first outrage of the day was over changes McDonald's is making to its Happy Meals, though co-hosts Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade didn't really make it clear why they're so angry:
DOOCY: And kids, there's about to be no more happy in your Happy Meals. Starting today, they're being replaced with the healthy meal.
KILMEADE: Now how are we going to sell it to the kids?
DOOCY: You can thank the fat police for that, Brian. Sorry, Mayor McCheese.
Co-host Gretchen Carlson repeated a similar tease later in the show, although a full segment on the story was never aired. Perhaps that's because the real story is not quite so dramatic.
As reported today by the Chicago Tribune:
Reacting to America's childhood obesity epidemic and blame it receives as the country's largest purveyor of burgers and fries, McDonald's plans to announce Tuesday that it will begin serving a fruit or vegetable with every Happy Meal sold in the U.S.
Does this mean Happy Meals' French fries are going away? No:
The Oak Brook-based chain will make the addition to its children's meal, and shrink the portion of french fries, beginning in September in some markets, with all 14,000 restaurants getting the revamped offering by next April.
McDonald's said it first experimented with using fruit -- typically an apple -- or a vegetable as a replacement for fries in Happy Meals. But both children and parents rebelled, so the fries will stay.
There were no “fat police” involved here -- McDonald's made the responsible decision to make its children's meals healthier all on its own. It's perplexing why Fox & Friends would be outraged over this.
Perhaps they were confusing this story with a separate segment, one about hypothetical taxes on junk food that would encourage Americans to eat healthier food:
CARLSON: Well, listen to this. Should you pay more for French fries, doughnuts, and even sugary soda, all because the government doesn't think you can control your own cravings? Some are suggesting a bad food tax. But do we really need the government policy -- or policing this?
This graphic was displayed as Carlson spoke:
Carlson didn't explain where Fox & Friends found these numbers, so the viewer is left to assume the government is actually considering such taxes. Actually, it appears these numbers came from a recent op-ed in The New York Times. So a “50 cent tax” on fries isn't actually being considered by any legislature right now.
But that didn't stop Carlson from plowing on anyhow, and she urges her guests, two nutritionists, to condemn such “food police” involvement. One of them, Robert Ferguson, happily obliges:
FERGUSON: No, [a tax on unhealthy foods] doesn't sound good at all. The government, number one, we want to keep them out of the game. Number two, we want to go to the root of the problem and that means education. So, it's not about making apples and oranges cheaper. The reality is going to the people, showing the people how to actually maximize their overall metabolism as well as drop the weight and to become healthier. And then, I want to know who defines what makes what foods healthy. No one has ever really talked about that.
Later, Ferguson bafflingly said this:
KAREN GILBERT (nutritionist): We have to start at the beginning. There has to be a change. My first -- saying would be to tax foods that have absolutely no nutritional value whatsoever. And I would start with soda and I would take it from there.
CARLSON: So foods that have no nutritional value.
GILBERT: Absolutely no nutritional value.
CARLSON: Robert, would that be difficult to decipher?
FERGUSON: That would be extremely difficult, because, one, you're taking into account different cultures. I mean, in my world, I like mac and cheese. And guess what? I'm going to eat it. Now show me how I can make it a little healthier, I can still get the results I want. So, again, it really comes down to who's going to define what's healthy and what's not. And at the same time, if it's unhealthy, why is it available anyway?
Carlson immediately moved on to ask Gilbert about the role of “personal responsibility” in public nutrition. She failed to challenge any of Ferguson's bizarre claims -- how is the fact that he “like[s] mac and cheese” “taking into account different cultures?” And how does that change a food's nutritional value? Also, if Ferguson thinks that products must be healthy to be available, how does he explain the legality of alcohol and tobacco?
Regardless of ongoing debates about “what's healthy and what's not,” health experts have agreed that a national tax of 1 cent per ounce on soda would help stem the U.S. obesity epidemic and generate $14.9 billion in its first year alone. So it's not “difficult to decipher” that soda and other sugary drinks are one cause of health problems.
Scientists and public health professionals have been clear -- there is a serious obesity problem in the U.S. that requires immediate action. Fox News, for whatever reason, seems determined to hide this fact by demonizing healthy eating.