Conservative Media Rail Against Efforts To Ensure Safe And Healthy Food

Media Matters Dec 3, 2010

In recent weeks, Fox News’ Glenn Beck has railed against the proposed food safety legislation making its way through Congress, claiming it is a way for the government to “control your food” and ultimately “control you.” This is just the latest in a long line of hysterics from conservatives regarding efforts to make Americans’ food safer and healthier.

Beck Campaigned Against Food Safety Bill

Beck Called Food Safety Bill “Extraordinarily Dangerous.” On his radio show, Beck exhorted listeners to “get on the phone and stand up to your senator against the Food Safety Act,” blasting the legislation as “extraordinarily dangerous.” He went on to say: “Do not allow the food bill to pass. If you can make a phone call and get on with your senator and tell them, ‘Don’t pass this,’ please do it.” [Premiere Radio Networks’ The Glenn Beck Program, 11/30/10]

Beck Invented Facts To Attack Food Safety Bill. On his Fox News show, Beck distorted a Congressional Budget Office cost estimate to claim that food-safety legislation would mean “higher taxes for you,” baselessly claimed the bill would drive up food costs, and underplayed concerns about food safety, asking: “Is there a big problem [with food safety] that I don’t know of?” Beck further demonized the legislation as a George Soros-backed effort to “control you.” [Fox News’ Glenn Beck, 11/29/10]

Beck On Food Safety Bill: “This Is About Control, And, In The End, Starvation.” On his show, Beck raised fears that the bill “is a massive, massive expansion of federal regulation, increasing the power of the FDA” and mocked the idea that the government “want[s] to protect you from your food,” adding, “Really.” He went on to suggest that this was just a government plot for control, saying: “All of a sudden we need this legislation and it can’t wait until Christmas. No, no. Why: Monsanto. George Soros. Political favors. Control and power.” Beck concluded: “They control your food, they control you. … This is about control, and, in the end, starvation.” [Glenn Beck, 11/29/10]

Discussing Food Safety Bill, Beck Says, “This Is What Stalin Did.” On his radio show, Beck attacked the food bill, saying:

BECK: The military is the only group of people in this country who are doing their damn job in the government. … You name the group of people that are doing their job in the government that are paid by you and I through tax dollars: military. That’s it. You – you’re kidding me, right? You’re gonna take these guys, many of them who live on the poverty level already, and you’re gonna have inflation go up — you’re gonna deny it – which will force their families onto food stamps. Inflation is going up. Then you’re gonna do something that then causes the price of food to go up even faster? What are you, out of your mind? No, no. This is what Stalin did. This is what they all do. This is what FDR did: “Oh, we’re gonna fix the food thing here in America. Oh, you know, there’s just too much food.” That’s why they slaughtered millions of pigs.

And then what happened? … Then we had trouble with food. Oh, gee, we can’t get any food. People are starving. Look, if you wanna – if you want to be somebody that agrees and says, “You know what? No, it’s still 1995. It’s still 1985. It’s still 1945. It’s still 1905.” You go right ahead. You go right ahead. I’m not one of them. I’m sorry, there’s nothing in this food bill that if you’re dealing with Jesus Christ and his disciples as Congress and the president, then I’m sure we’re fine. I’m sure we’re fine. [The Glenn Beck Program, 11/19/10]

Beck Accused Senate Of Committing A “Crime” By Passing Food Safety Bill. After the Senate passed the food safety bill by a vote of 73 to 25, Beck said on his radio show:

BECK: These people in Congress — it’s criminal what they’re doing. It’s criminal. Right now, the biggest heist of freedom the world has ever seen is happening and they don’t care if they’re leaving fingerprints anymore. You have to ask yourself why. They’re going in and they’re passing all of these things in broad daylight that you will pay for. The food safety act will increase the price of food. But they don’t care. They’re doing these crimes in broad daylight. They’re just taking it. What kind of criminal does that? [The Glenn Beck Program, 11/30/10]

Food Bill Would Boost FDA Authority To Prevent Incidents Of Food-Related Illness

Wash. Post: “Food Illnesses Affect One In Four Americans And Kill 5,000 Of Them Each Year.” In an article about Senate passage of the food safety bill, The Washington Post reported that the measure “places new responsibilities on farmers and food companies to prevent contamination, and — for the time — sets safety standards for imported foods, a growing part of the American diet.” The article added: “The legislation follows a spate of national outbreaks of food poisoning involving products as varied as eggs, peanuts and spinach in which thousands of people were sickened and more than a dozen died.” It continued:

Food illnesses affect one in four Americans and kill 5,000 of them each year, according to government statistics. Tainted food has cost the industry billions of dollars in recalls, lost sales and legal expenses.

The bill places greater responsibility on manufacturers and farmers to prevent contamination — a departure from the current system, which relies on government inspectors to catch contamination after the fact.

The measure also gives the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] authority to recall food; now, it must rely on food companies to voluntarily pull products off the shelves. And it gives the FDA access to internal records at farms and food production facilities.

The bill sets standards for imported foods, requiring importers to verify that products grown and processed overseas meet safety standards. Public health experts say this is urgently needed, given the increase in imported foods. The FDA has been inspecting only about one percent of imported food products.

The bill would also require the FDA to regularly inspect farms and food processing facilities, something it does not currently do. [The Washington Post, 11/30/10]

NY Times Op-Ed: FDA Will “Finally Have The Resources And Authority To Prevent Food Safety Problems, Rather Than Respond Only After People Have Become Ill.” In a New York Times op-ed, Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser argued that the bill is the “best opportunity in a generation to improve the safety of the American food supply.” They went on to say that the bill would, “for the first time,” grant the FDA “the authority to test widely for dangerous pathogens and to recall contaminated food.” They added: “The agency would finally have the resources and authority to prevent food safety problems, rather than respond only after people have become ill. The bill would also require more frequent inspections of large-scale, high-risk food-production plants.” [The New York Times, 11/28/10]

Beck, Other Conservatives Routinely Attack Food Safety, Healthy Food Initiatives

Beck Suggested Philosophy Behind Offering Children Healthy Food Choices Will Lead To Riots, Imprisonment, Global Government. On his Fox News show, Beck suggested that Michelle Obama’s efforts to encourage healthy eating and reduce childhood obesity would lead to imprisonment for eating French fries, saying:

BECK: You’re going to have to tax, you’re going to have to make it more and more difficult. But when those options don’t work, how do you get people to stop eating French fries, because French fries still beat carrots. What’s left? Well, now you have to start thinking about punishments — maybe a fine, maybe even jail. But it always starts with a nudge.

Beck also suggested that the initiative would lead to global government, claiming that the “media’s not going to give you the truth on this nudge towards bigger government, and eventually global government, but I will. We’ve taken it now from French fries to global government.” He subsequently theorized that the government would “become a little forceful,” saying, “[W]e’ve just been shown another example this week of nudging with Michelle Obama. It starts with carrots and French fries, over apples, and then it moves into butter, and soon it becomes a shove.” [Glenn Beck, 10/14/10]

Beck On Healthy School Lunch Program: “First, It’s Nudge; Then, It’s Shove; Then, It Becomes Shoot.” Discussing a new government initiative to fight childhood obesity, Beck claimed Cass Sunstein was behind the program to “manipulate” and “trick” school children “into picking fruits and vegetables over cookies and French fries.” Beck added: “Once again, progressives know better than you and you are now paying to have Cass Sunstein, the guy who I say is the most dangerous man in America, because, first, it’s nudge; then, it’s shove; then it becomes shoot.” [Glenn Beck, 10/14/10]

Hannity: First Lady Is “Taking The Nanny State To A New Level.” On his Fox News show, Sean Hannity said that Michelle Obama was “taking the nanny state to a new level” by “tell[ing] us what to eat” and claimed that we will soon have the government “fining us if we use salt.” [Fox News’ Hannity, 10/14/10]

Stossel: Healthy Food Initiative May Lead To “The Government … Deciding Who We’ll Marry.” In a blog post titled “Michelle Obama and the Food Police,” Fox Business Network host John Stossel wrote, “In her latest speech, [Obama] talks about helping grocery stores ‘locate in underserved areas…getting healthier food into schools…helping our kids become more active, not just in school but at home.’ Sounds like big government to me.” Stossel later added, “If the government is allowed to dictate our diet, what’s next? Do they start deciding who we’ll marry, where we’ll work?” [,10/14/10]

Savage: ” ‘Let Them Eat Carrot Sticks,’ She Says.” On his radio show, Michael Savage attacked Michelle Obama’s initiative, calling her “hypocritical” because, he claimed, “Every time we see her, she’s on vacation slurping an ice cream cone or eating fries, and then she’s lecturing us on healthy choices. … Now, she says she’s a fry lover, but for the peons out there, give them carrot sticks. Let them eat carrot sticks, she says.” [Talk Radio Network’s The Savage Nation, 10/13/10]

Media Conservatives Attacked Healthy Eating Initiative As “Cutting Into Our Diets And Our Rights.” When the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity first released its voluntary recommendations, several media conservatives attacked the report as “cutting into our diets and our rights.” However, the report made recommendations for the food industry to voluntarily follow — not federal mandates.

  • A Fox News teaser for Hannity’s May 12 show stated, “No soda. No snacks. No choice? How the first lady’s task force on childhood obesity is cutting into our diets and rights.” [Fox News, 5/12/10]
  • On his Fox News show, Sean Hannity said: “We now, in our government, have a government obesity task force, all right? An Obama government obesity task force.” Hannity asked: “Does every American family need a dietician appointed by the government to tell them that this food is going to make you fat and this food is not?” [Fox News’ Hannity, 5/11/10]
  • Only a month after the recommendations were released, The Fox Nation ran an article titled “First Lady’s War on Obesity Off to a Bad Start.”[Fox Nation, 6/29/10]
  • Hot Air blogger Ed Morrissey wrote in a May 11 post that the task force recommendations “put the nanny in nanny-state government.” Morrissey also wrote: “They want to use whatever power they have to limit choices to children and adults, and interpose themselves in place of parents.” [, 5/11/10]
  • Michelle Malkin wrote a May 11 blog post titled “Here come Michelle’s Obama’s food marketing police.” Malkin has written several other pieces attacking Michelle Obama over the Let’s Move initiative. [, 5/11/10]

Conservatives Invoked Fear That Big Government Was Coming For Your Salt Shaker. Following reports that the FDA was considering regulating the amount of salt in processed foods, media conservatives falsely claimed that the Obama administration was “seizing our salt shakers.” In fact, the FDA review had nothing to do with consumers’ use of table salt and instead involved examining warnings about high sodium content in processed foods and restaurant meals.

  • Announcing a Fox News online poll on the potential regulations, co-host Bill Hemmer said: “Do you think the government should regulate the ingredients in the food we eat?” Co-host Martha MacCallum asked: “Can’t we make our own decision about whether or not we want to salt our food?” [Fox News’ America’s Newsroom, 4/20/10]
  • On Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade teased an upcoming segment by stating, “Coming up straight ahead, all this talk about the government taking salt away from you because it’s so bad for you, but aren’t there good things about salt?” Later, senior managing editor of Dr. Manny Alvarez said, “I hate the government getting involved and telling me what to eat.” Co-host Steve Doocy replied: “Food police!” [Fox & Friends, 4/22/10]
  • On Fox News’ Happening Now, co-host Jane Skinner asserted: “The FDA is making a major push to limit how much salt you eat. Will the government take the spice out of life and the thrill out of cooking?” [Fox News’ Happening Now, 4/20/10]
  • Teasing an upcoming segment on Fox Business’ Happy Hour, co-host Eric Bolling stated: “Hide the salt and pepper. The government is about to shake up — Get it? — your eating habits.” [Fox Business’ Happy Hour, 4/20/10]

Similarly, Limbaugh Has Long Derided Programs For Safer, Healthier Food

Limbaugh Called Salad Bars In Schools “The Police State.” On his radio show, Rush Limbaugh attacked the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) as “food Nazis” for labeling certain foods, “Food Porn” because of their high caloric content. Limbaugh called this “the latest harassment” from “people who cannot mind their own business,” then went on to attack Michelle Obama’s initiative to place salad bars in public schools. He stated: “What kid’s gonna go to a salad bar? … They’re gonna be forced to go to a salad bar, Snerdley. This is the point. It’s the police state. Get used to it.” [Premiere Radio Networks’ The Rush Limbaugh Show, 11/22/10]

Limbaugh Attacked “Mooch-elle” Obama For Pushing Healthy School Meals Bill. Discussing Michelle Obama’s push to pass legislation requiring healthier school lunches, Limbaugh called her “Mooch-elle” and derided the effort, asking, “Don’t we have about 25 of those already?” He added: “So what is this? A bill to provide healthful school lunches for low-income children, as though we don’t already have that? What the hell is food stamps? What the hell’s a school lunch program?” [The Rush Limbaugh Show, 9/28/10]

Limbaugh Claimed White House Will Monitor His Show To “Report” Callers That Are “Part Of The Obesity Problem.” On his radio show, Limbaugh responded to a caller who discussed her own diet and claimed that “it won’t be long, after that call — she talked about what food she’s going to fix and how she’s going to prepare it and where she’s going to get it — that woman will be reported to Michelle Obama. In the not-too-distant future, monitors assigned by the White House to listen to this show will have to report that woman because she is going to be considered a part of the obesity problem in the United States.” [The Rush Limbaugh Show, 10/15/10]

Limbaugh: President Obama Is “Hen-Pecked” By His Wife, Who Won’t Let Him Eat “Real Food.” On his radio show, Limbaugh said that “half the reason” President Obama “leaves” the house “is to go get a burger because his wife is making him eat watercress and bamboo in there. He wants to get out and have some real food: some fries, some onion rings, some burgers. … I mean, it’s real food. Who knows what they’re feeding the poor guy in the White House [The Rush Limbaugh Show, 6/24/10]

Limbaugh Attacks School Lunches, Suggests Hungry Children Should “Dumpster Dive.” Referring to a report that children “face a summer of hunger” because free or discount cafeteria meals would not be available to school children during the summer break, Limbaugh stated that “a summer off from government eating might be just the ticket” to curbing childhood obesity. He later characterized children “starving to death out there because there’s no school meal being provided” as “one of the benefits of school being out.” He also challenged Summer Food Service programs by criticizing children for not knowing how to find food. Limbaugh first suggested that children should “try your house,” and “if that doesn’t work, try a Happy Meal at McDonald’s.” He concluded, “There’s another place if none of these options work to find food; there’s always the neighborhood dumpster.” [The Rush Limbaugh Show, 6/16/10]

Limbaugh: “We Can Now Thank The Regime For Seizing Our Salt Shakers.” On his radio show, Limbaugh commented: “We can now thank the regime for seizing our salt shakers.” Limbaugh added that “they’re going to take away our salt shakers, and we’re supposed to thank the regime for seasoning our food.” In fact, the FDA review Limbaugh was referring to had nothing to do with consumers’ use of table salt and instead involved examining warnings about high sodium content in processed foods and restaurant meals, the sources of 77 percent of sodium intake. [The Rush Limbaugh Show, 4/20/10]

Limbaugh: Food Safety Advocates “Going To Go After Oreos.” Limbaugh attacked the Cancer Project for its anti-hot dog billboard advertisement, which followed research into processed meat that also spurred a lawsuit against food companies to add cancer-risk warning labels on hot dog packaging. Limbaugh called the group “a bunch of wacko health freaks, health Nazis” and claimed that “if you relish hot dogs, beware.” Limbaugh went on to call the suit “absurd” and “hilarious” and warned that this is “the starting point. … [A]fter that, they’re going to go for Oreos.” [The Rush Limbaugh Show, 7/27/09]

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