Today, MSNBC's Willie Geist asked what seemed like a rhetorical question during Morning Joe: “Who is against giving children good food for lunch?” While some of his co-hosts laughed at the idea that anyone could be against such a thing, there is, in fact, a major media outlet that has loudly opposed healthy food and exercise initiatives for children: Fox News.
Geist's question came during an interview with Share Our Strength (SOS) founder and CEO Bill Shore and actor Jeff Bridges, who were on Morning Joe to promote SOS's No Kid Hungry campaign. After playing a clip of Jon Stewart mocking Congress' decision to allow schools to count pizza as a vegetable, the co-hosts discussed SOS's successes and struggles in trying to get healthier food into school lunch and breakfast programs. That's when this exchange happened:
GEIST: So when you go out there, Jeff, let's say you go up to Washington, and I mean this as a serious question, who is against giving children good food for lunch? I mean that.
MIKA BRZEZINSKI (co-host): Well, the clip that we --
GEIST: We laugh at the Jon Stewart clip. But are there people, when you say, we need to get fruits and vegetables, they say, no, no, we're sticking with the frozen pizza. I'm backed by the pizza industry. How does it work? Who's against this?
Bridges responded by saying, in part, that “hunger is so connected with poverty. And ... poverty, you know, when you start to deal with that, everybody has different opinions,” then concluded: “But you're right. When you talk about feeding kids ... it's a no-brainer.”
Geist and Brzezinski don't need to look as far as the pizza industry to find an outspoken opponent of SOS's work getting kids healthier food. They only need to look to neighboring cable channel Fox News.
Fox has long attacked any government initiative to promote either healthier eating or exercise for children. In May 2010, after a White House task force released a report on voluntary measures to combat childhood obesity, Fox News responded by airing a promotion for Sean Hannity's 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.”
In September 2010, Fox News figures bashed Michelle Obama's “Let's Move!” initiative, which aims to reduce childhood obesity through promoting healthier eating and exercise. Hannity claimed on his show that the first lady was “taking the nanny state to a new level,” while Fox Business host John Stossel wrote in a blog post: “If the government is allowed to dictate our diet, what's next? Do they start deciding who we'll marry, where we'll work?” Fox Nation even linked to a CNS News article with the headline, “First Lady Targets Freedom Fries.”
Fox News figures also drummed up phony outrage over a supposed government plan to "ban bake sales at schools" after the passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act last December. Even though there was no such ban, Fox & Friends repeatedly claimed that the act could ban bake sales -- even after their guests corrected them.
And in March this year, Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham attacked Michelle Obama for combining the annual White House Easter Egg Roll with her “Let's Move” initiative, bizarrely suggesting that it was somehow sacrilegious for the event to have a secular theme. The event is, in fact, secular, and routinely has a secondary theme -- in 2008, the Bush administration chose “ocean conservation” -- but Ingraham chose not to mention that and instead was enraged that children would be encouraged to “Get Up and Go.”
But it's not just “government overreach” that Fox News is against -- they've attacked private companies' efforts to make food healthier, too. In July, the Fox & Friends co-hosts were spitting mad over McDonald's announcement that it will shrink the Happy Meal's portion of fries and include a fruit or vegetable with every meal. The co-hosts had this actual exchange:
STEVE DOOCY (co-host): And kids, there's about to be no more happy in your Happy Meals. Starting today, they're being replaced with the healthy meal.
BRIAN KILMEADE (co-host): Now how are we going to sell it to the kids?
DOOCY: You can thank the fat police for that, Brian. Sorry, Mayor McCheese.
There were no “fat police” involved -- McDonald's made that decision all on its own.
And last month, when actress Josie Bissett came on Fox & Friends to promote her new children's books and mentioned an upcoming book that will teach kids to cook, Doocy bizarrely asked, “They don't have to make healthy stuff, do they?”
Fox has, on rare occasions, allowed healthy foods to be promoted in its programming, but only through celebrities who are on as paid spokesmen for corporations, as when Angie Harmon took to Fox & Friends' airwaves to promote vegetable eating -- through her advertising for Hidden Valley Ranch dressing.
But the overwhelming majority of segments Fox runs about food and health discourage healthy behaviors and promote unhealthy ones, from encouraging viewers to eat too much salt to hyping Botox injections.