Conservative Media Use Signing of Childhood Obesity Bill to Continue Their War on Nutrition

Right-wing media figures have used the signing of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act to continue to mock Michelle Obama's anti-obesity campaign, specifically deriding her reference to obesity as a “national security issue.” In fact, retired military officials have indeed referred to obesity as a national security issue.

Right-wing Media Figures Mock Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act

M. Obama Cites Military Leaders Who Say Childhood Obesity Is a National Security Threat. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which was passed by the House in December and by the Senate in August, was signed into law on December 12 at the Harriet Tubman Elementary School in Washington, D.C. First Lady Michelle Obama was present at the signing, and during her remarks, she said:

And from military leaders who tell us that when more than one in four young people are unqualified for military service because of their weight, they tell us that childhood obesity isn't just a public health issue; they tell us that it is not just an economic threat -- it is a national security threat as well. [Accessed at on 12/14/10]

Kilmeade Suggests M. Obama “Went A Little Too Far” In Saying Childhood Obesity Is a National Security Threat. On the December 14 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham discussed the bill. Prior to airing a clip of Michelle Obama referencing military leaders' comments on obesity, co-host Brian Kilmeade said: “She has a worthy cause and a worthy focus, focusing on obesity in kids. Maybe she went a little bit too far when she said that obesity in children is actually becoming a national security threat.” On-screen text during the segment read: “A National Security Threat? First Lady Issues New Warning on Obesity. [Fox & Friends, 12/14/10]

Beck Mocked Bill and M. Obama's Comments. On his radio show on December 14, Glenn Beck and his co-host Pat Gray mocked the bill while Beck was reading a letter sent to him by young entrepreneurs. Beck read that the group has been making products to sell at its own store and then said:

BECK: Well I hope it's not cupcakes. Let me just say this: I'm going to have to report you to Homeland Security and Michelle Obama.

GRAY: It's a national security risk.

BECK: It really is. I don't know what these people are doing, selling cupcakes and cakes and candies to the children in schools. They've got to be stopped.

GRAY: What's next? Salt? Lard of some sort? Butter? [The Glenn Beck Program, 12/14/10]

But Retired Military Leaders Have Called Unhealthy School Lunches “A Threat To National Security”

Retired Military Leaders: Unhealthy School Lunches Pose a Threat To National Security. In an article published in April with the headline “School Lunches Are a Threat to National Security, Retired Officials Say,” quoted a non-profit group made up of over 130 retired military leaders who have said “unhealthy school lunches pose a threat to national security.” The article continued:

Unhealthy school lunches pose a threat to national security, according to a group of retired military leaders.

Leaving 27 percent of young adults “too fat to fight,” childhood obesity is jeopardizing military recruitment, according to a report released Tuesday by the non-profit group Mission: Readiness.

The 130-plus retired military leaders making up the organization is [sic] joining together to battle the obesity epidemic on the school front.

While putting cafeteria fare on the level of a national security threat may be “dramatic,” “it's not entirely unjustified” considering how much students eat during the school day, said Karen Glanz, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Schools of Medicine and Nursing.

In the report, the retirees called for less junk food in schools, better nutrition programs for kids and overall better funding for federally provided school lunches. The group also appeared on Capitol Hill Tuesday with Sen. Richard Lugar and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to show their support for new legislation on the issue pending in congress [sic].

“Since 1995, the proportion of recruits who failed their physical exams because they were overweight has risen by nearly 70 percent,” said Gen. John M. Shalikashvili, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“We need to reverse this trend, and an excellent place to start is by improving the quality of food served in our schools,” he added. [, 04/25/10]

Beck, Ingraham Push Several Other Misleading Claims About The Bill

Ingraham Repeatedly Suggested The Bill Wasn't Paid For. On Fox & Friends, Ingraham repeatedly emphasized the bill's cost, at one point saying, “We don't have the money for this stuff.” [Fox & Friends, 12/14/10]

House Education and Labor Committee: The Legislation is “Fully Paid For -- At No Cost to Taxpayers.” As Media Matters for America has previously documented, the bill is deficit neutral --spending cuts in other programs offset the cost of the bill. A November 30 blog post on the House Committee on Education and Labor's website said of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act:

Fully Paid For -- At No Cost to Taxpayers

  • Saves $1 billion over 10 years by extending a provision that allows the Secretary of Agriculture to count commodities purchased for market stabilization toward the required level of federal support (in the form of commodity foods) for the National School Lunch Program.
  • Saves approximately $1.3 billion over 10 years by restructuring nutrition education in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) into a new grant program that distributes Federal funds by formula to the States.
  • Saves approximately $2.2 billion over 10 years by eliminating a temporary SNAP benefit increase provided by The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). [House Education and Labor Committee, 11/30/10]

Beck Referenced Phony Cupcake Ban While Mocking The Bill. On the December 14 edition of his radio show, Beck mocked the bill while responding to a letter from “a young entrepreneurs school group in Middleburg Heights, Ohio.” Beck replied to the group's report that they had been selling homemade products by joking, “I hope it's not cupcakes. Let me just say this, I'm going to have to report you to Homeland Security and Michelle Obama.” [The Glenn Beck Program, 12/14/10]

Associated Press: Nutrition Bill “Wouldn't Apply To After-Hours Events Or Concession Stands At Sports Events.” As Media Matters has previously documented, the bill does not ban the sale of cupcakes or ban bake sales. It also does not apply to events held after school. According to the Associated Press:

The legislation, part of first lady Michelle Obama's campaign to stem childhood obesity, provides more meals at school for needy kids, including dinner, and directs the Agriculture Department to write guidelines to make those meals healthier. The legislation would apply to all foods sold in schools during regular class hours, including in the cafeteria line, vending machines and at fundraisers.

It wouldn't apply to after-hours events or concession stands at sports events. [Associated Press, 12/3/10]