By now you're probably familiar with Koch-funded science denial. Now meet Coke-funded science denial.
Fox News host Shepard Smith compared the news that Coca-Cola is funding scientists who dispute the link between caloric intake and obesity to the fossil fuel industry money behind climate change deniers, in stark contrast with how right-wing media figures reacted.
The New York Times recently revealed how Coca-Cola is behind a new organization called the Global Energy Balance Network that is promoting exercise as “a solution to chronic disease and obesity while remaining largely silent on the role of food and nutrition.” The group's vice president, Steven N. Blair, said in a video announcing the organization: “Most of the focus in the popular media and in the scientific press is ... blaming fast food, blaming sugary drinks, and so on [for obesity]. And there's really virtually no compelling evidence that that in fact is the cause.”
But the Times reported that health experts “say this message is misleading and part of an effort by Coke to deflect criticism about the role sugary drinks have played in the spread of obesity and Type 2 diabetes.” The experts “contend that the company is using its new group to convince the public that physical activity can offset a bad diet despite scientific evidence that exercise has only minimal impact on weight compared with what people consume.” Global nutrition professor Barry M. Popkin told the Times that “Coke's support of prominent health researchers was reminiscent of tactics used by the tobacco industry, which enlisted experts to become 'merchants of doubt' about the health hazards of smoking.”
On the August 10 edition of Fox News' Shepard Smith Reporting, anchor Smith offered a similar analogy -- and extended it even further to climate change denial. Smith said the story “reminds you of exactly what the tobacco industry did back in day, and more recently, it also reminds you of what the climate deniers -- the climate change deniers -- are doing as well” :
However, Fox contributor Lisa “Kennedy” Montgomery countered with rhetoric more in line with that of Fox News, claiming that “there's so much adulterated science out there that people are no longer going to trust the scientific method at all,” and that it's “hard to figure out ... what is emotional rhetoric and what is fact” on climate change. (The facts undoubtedly show that climate change is real and that humans are causing it.)
And Rush Limbaugh came to the complete opposite conclusion as Smith. On the August 10 edition of his radio show, Limbaugh ranted that the Times' Coca-Cola story “undermine[s] the whole notion of a scientific consensus,” because it “can be bought and paid for” :
LIMBAUGH: If Coca-Cola can find scientists and get an opinion that they want from by paying them, do you think the same thing could happen to climate change scientists and a “consensus” of them? Do you think somebody could come along and offer those scientists enough money? I mean, the left, if anybody's paying attention, is writing their own obituary in this stuff.
They're undermining the whole notion of a scientific consensus. Now it can be bought and paid for by Coca-Cola.
The tobacco industry has used deceitful tactics for decades to deny and cast doubt upon the scientifically proven health impacts of cigarettes, and the fossil fuel industry has employed the same tactics on climate change. Now, the Coke-funded scientists agreeing with the industry's bottom line have been roundly criticized by independent scientists and health experts. Is Coke the new flavor of industry-funded science denial?