Still Fighting Healthy Eating: Right-Wing Media Freak Out Over Healthier Meals

Right-wing media have reacted to the announcement that the parent company of Olive Garden and Red Lobster will make adult and children's meals healthier by inventing the conspiracy that the decision was the result of favors from the administration or political pressure from Michelle Obama. This follows the right-wing media's long history of attacking healthy eating and exercise.

Parent Company Of Olive Garden, Red Lobster Agrees To Make Meals Healthier

Washington Post: “Olive Garden, Red Lobster To Work With Michelle Obama On Cutting Calories On Their Menus.” From a September 15 Washington Post article:

Darden Restaurants Inc., operator of the Olive Garden and Red Lobster dining chains, agreed to work with first lady Michelle Obama's Partnership for a Healthier America to cut calories and salt in its meals.

Darden will reduce calories and sodium by 10 percent in the next five years at its six different restaurant chains, Rich Jeffers, a company spokesman, said today in an interview. The Orlando, Florida-based company also made a 10-year commitment to decrease calories and salt by 20 percent.

Fruits or vegetables will become the default side dish in kids' meals, along with 1 percent milk as the drink, according to Darden. The Partnership for a Healthier America is a nonpartisan group working to advance first lady Obama's Let's Move! campaign to fight childhood obesity.


From 1980 through 2008, the portion of obese children and adolescents ages two to 19 in the U.S. tripled to about 17 percent. More than one-third of American adults are considered obese, based on body-mass index, a ratio of weight to height, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Darden rose 49 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $45.43 at 12:42 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The shares declined 3.2 percent this year before today. [The Washington Post, 9/15/11]

Right-Wing Media Claim Darden Was “Strong-Armed” Into “Re-Designing” Meals

Malkin Suggests Darden Participation Due To “Obtain[ing] One Of Those Coveted Obamacare Waivers.” In a September 15 post on her blog, conservative pundit Michelle Malkin suggested that Darden's decision to make its menus healthier was because it “just happens to be one of the few and fortunate businesses to obtain one of those coveted Obamacare waivers.” From the post:

In her latest flexing of federal “Let's Move” muscle, First Lady Michelle Obama has strong-armed several major restaurant chains into re-designing their menus to her exacting healthy standards.

Move it or lose it!


In a normal, free-market environment, of course, business executives take their cue from customers -- not from the East Wing.

But this is no normal, free-market environment.

And, I might add, Darden Restaurants is no normal restaurant chain.

At a time when most food service providers are struggling under the weight of increased taxes, health care mandates, and regulations, Darden Restaurants just happens to be one of the few and fortunate businesses to obtain one of those coveted Obamacare waivers. [, 9/15/11]

  • In Fact, Companies From Industries That Opposed Health Care Reform Have Been Granted Waivers From Applicable Section Of The Affordable Care Act. In fact, has found that companies from industries that opposed health care reform were granted waivers from the applicable section of the Affordable Care Act; additionally, in contrast to Malkin's claim that Darden was “one of the few and fortunate businesses” to get a waiver, as of May this year, only about 100 out of 1,300 waiver requests had been denied. [Media Matters, 9/15/11]

Drudge: “Adult Supervision For Fries.” On September 15, Drudge Report featured the following headline and image as its top story:

The headline linked to an Associated Press story about the Darden menu changes, titled, “First lady makes headway calling for healthy foods.” [Drudge Report Archives, 9/15/11]

Daily Caller: Darden Is “Bending To The Whims Of Michelle Obama.” In a September 15 article, the conservative news site The Daily Caller described Darden's announcement as "[b]ending to the whims of Michelle Obama." [Daily Caller, 9/15/11]

War On Nutrition: Right-Wing Media Have A Long History Of Attacking Healthy Eating And Exercise

Happy Meals: Right-Wing Media Attack McDonald's For Healthier Kids' Meals. Following McDonald's decision to offer “more nutritionally-balanced” Happy Meals and First Lady Michelle Obama's praise of the decision, the right-wing media jumped to attack McDonald's for supposedly bending to the will of the “fat police” and making Happy Meals “less happy.” [Media Matters, 7/26/11, 7/27/11]

Attacking Kids Exercising: Fox & Friends Complains That Children's Easter Egg Roll Also Promoted Exercise. On the March 30 broadcast of Fox & Friends, guest Laura Ingraham attacked Michelle Obama for promoting her health-focused “Let's Move!” initiative at the White House Easter Egg Roll. [Media Matters, 3/30/11]

Bake Sale Outrage: Right-Wing Media Attack Child Nutrition Bill Over Bake Sale Provision. In December 2010, Fox attacked the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, claiming that it could “ban bake sales at schools” and constituted a “War on Desserts.” [Media Matters, 12/6/10]

  • In Fact, The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act Does Not Ban Bake Sales. While a provision in the bill gives the government power to “limit school bake sales and other fundraisers,” it does not apply to “after-hours events or concession stands at sports events” ; furthermore, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack sent out a letter explicitly stating he would not use the bill to ban bake sales. [Media Matters, 12/6/10

Mocking Childhood Obesity: Right-Wing Media Attack Obama Over Accurate Comments On Obesity. Following the signing of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, right-wing media continued to mock Michelle Obama's anti-obesity campaign, specifically deriding her reference to obesity as a “national security issue.” [Media Matters, 12/14/10]

  • In Fact, Retired Military Officials Have Indeed Referred To Obesity As A National Security Issue. In fact, Michelle Obama's comments at the signing of the bill accurately reflected the opinion of retired military officials who have said that “unhealthy school lunches pose a threat to national security” ; an article published at the time noted that “27 percent of young adults are 'too fat to fight.' ” [Media Matters, 12/14/10]

Right-Wing Media Routinely Attack Michelle Obama For Fighting Childhood Obesity. Conservative media figures regularly attack Michelle Obama over her efforts to encourage healthy eating and reduce childhood obesity, including by baselessly claiming that Americans “will be reported” or be “jail[ed]” for eating French fries. [Media Matters, 9/17/10]