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June 8 – June 15, 2006 Edition
Fast Food Giants
To Focus on Facts
New York, NY/6/1/2006Houghton Mifflin Vice President and Editor-in-Chief Eamon Dolan today denounced the fast food industry’s efforts to discredit the author Eric Schlosser and his books Fast Food Nation and Chew on This.
“In the five years since we published Fast Food Nation, the facts in the book have never been effectively refuted by the fast food industry,” said Dolan. “It has become required reading at universities throughout the United States, routinely assigned by professors in a wide variety of disciplines. Yet now, with the publication of Chew on This, which Eric co-authored with Charles Wilson, the industry has launched a Swift Boat-style campaign against Eric rather than focusing on ways to improve adolescent health. Clearly the industry believes that when you cannot refute the message, it is better to go after the messenger.”
According to a report in the Wall Street Journal (April 12, 2006), McDonald’s distributed a memo to franchisees in advance of the book’s publication, alluding to plans to “discredit the message and the messenger.” As also reported in the Wall Street Journal (May 18, 2006), groups including the Heartland Institute, the National Minority Health Month Foundation, the American Council on Science and Health, and the Center for Individual Freedom subsequently launched personal attacks against him. These organizations all have relationships with the conservative Washington lobbying firm the DCI Group, which counts McDonald’s and Coca-Cola among its clients.
DCI Group specializes in what the Washington Monthly describes as “corporate-financed grass roots organizing” campaigns. Group principals have a long history of opposing public health initiatives, working on behalf of the tobacco industry, and relying on “front groups” that masquerade as independent and objective organizations. According to the New York Times, Chris LaCivita, a DCI associate, worked for Swift Boat Veterans for Truth as a media adviser. Timothy N. Hyde, a DCI founding partner, was the senior director of public issues at R. J. Reynolds from 1988 to 1997. Hyde oversaw all of RJR’s PR campaigns. The Associated Press reported in June 2001 that Tom Synhorst, the chairman of DCI, “has been linked to South Carolina push polls in the 2000 Republican primary that attacked candidate John McCain as ‘a cheat, a liar and a fraud.'”
The attacks against Schlosser have been similarly personal and designed to harm his reputation. In early May, DCI Group published an attack site against Schlosser that argued he “is a politically motivated activist who plays on people’s fears.” The Heartland Institutewhich has denied the existence of global warming and argues on its Web site that “the public health community’s campaign against smoking is based on junk science” has accused Schlosser and Wilson of engaging in “Nazi” tactics”. In an essay on the site, Jay Lehr, the institute’s science director, wrote: “In the 1930s Adolph [sic] Hitler recognized that . . . he could indoctrinate Germany’s youth in support of his antihuman Nazi movement.” He goes on to claim that Schlosser and Wilson, by writing a book that educates children about the health and other implications of fast food, are making the same effort in their “drive to socialize” America. The Heartland Institute’s attack on Schlosser and Wilson is linked to Tech Central Station’s Health Roundtable Web site, which is sponsored by DCI Group.
Referring to the McDonald’s official press release regarding Chew on This, in which it claims to desire “objective and fair discussion” of issues related to fast food, Dolan called on McDonald’s to demonstrate its commitment to that principle by halting its funding of DCI Group’s Tech Central Station. “We’re facing a serious threat to the health of our children, given the twin ills of obesity and diabetes. This is not a political issue, or a personal one. The fast food industry should see this as a challenge to be solved together rather than just another opportunity to engage in smear campaign tactics,” said Dolan.
“Chew on This was published to inform kids about what they are eating, not to tell them what to eat,” says Eden Edwards, the book’s editor. “Schlosser and Wilson reveal what really goes into the food most American children consume by examining the entire supply chain, from the animals to the additives to how the workers are treated. They also explore the effects too much unhealthy food and drink can have on growing bodies.”
To see Eric Schlosser debate the McDonalds U.K. president, visit http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/newsnight/default.stm
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