Networks Hound Burger King for
Launching ‘Enormous’ Sandwich
ABC and NBC shake their collective finger
at the naughty peddlers of the new Omelet Sandwich.
By Amy Menefee
April 1, 2005
Â Â Â Â It’s been a rough week on TV for Burger
King. The King’s chief concept officer, Denny Marie Post, appeared
on morning shows and nightly newscasts several times explaining the
simple idea of marketing a new product to a target audience. But
when that product is the 730-calorie Enormous Omelet Sandwich, it’s
fair game for those who would protect Americans from themselves.
Â Â Â Â Peter Jennings, on March 28’s “World News Tonight,”
referred to “the nutritionists” who would call the new breakfast
sandwich “food porn.” Actually, “food porn” is a term used by the
Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a radical
anti-food-industry organization. Jennings did CSPI’s work for it in
his newscast, telling viewers that “Burger King isn’t even trying to
pretend its new breakfast offering is good for you.” He went on to
say, “The money is in the size.”
Â Â Â Â This is consistent with findings in two Free Market
Project studies on news coverage of obesity. Most recently, in “Supersized
Bias II,”Â food industry critics were portrayed as unbiased
experts most of the time. Jennings’ characterization of CSPI as
“nutritionists” is just such a portrayal. On NBC’s March 29 “Today,”
long-time industry critic and nutrition professor Marion Nestle was
a familiar go-to source for calorie condemnation.
Â Â Â Â ABC reporter Dean Reynolds called the sandwich a
“gut-buster,” and Jennings finished his report by ominously linking
the Burger King breakfast to obesity. In fact, Jennings implied that
you’d better watch your neighbors – they might be grabbing a Burger
King breakfast, and “everyone may pay for it in terms of health
care” down the road, he said. NBC’s Alexis Glick, reporting on
“Today,” said, “Nearly 59 million Americans are considered obese.
Nutritionists say these portion sizes don’t help.”
Â Â Â Â Likewise, Matt Lauer of NBC’s “Today” warned: “You
should be careful. You might need to go on a 10-mile run to work it
off.” Lauer also referred to the expanding girth of Americans.
Calling himself “all about personal responsibility,” Lauer pointed
to the sandwich and said, “Any knucklehead who goes in and buys this
five days a week deserves an angioplasty.”
Â Â Â Â Lauer understood that the notion of personal
responsibility makes the free market work. Alexis Glick of NBC
pointed out on March 29’s “Today” that Burger King had already sold
750,000 of the omelet sandwiches in the first week. Burger King says
it is selling a product marketed to a specific demographic – young,
active men who want a hearty but quick breakfast. “It’s kind of like
a platter between two buns,” Denny Marie Post said on “Today.”
Â Â Â Â During the lengthy “Today” segment in which Hardee’s
and Pizza Hut’s latest “big food” items were also exposed for their
calories and fat, nutritionist Heidi Skolnik squeezed in a bit of
praise for Burger King for its healthier menu options, such as
salads and soda alternatives.
Â Â Â Â Matt Lauer, at least, seemed aware that he couldn’t
blame the fast food restaurants for America’s obesity problem.
Ending the fast food-bashing segment, he said, “Again, it’s all
about personal responsibility. If you go into a restaurant and order
this every day, it’s your own fault if you end up with problems.”
Â Â Â Â “If you really know what’s going on,” Skolnik added.
“Supersized Bias” was the Free Market Project’s first study on
media bias against the food industry in the obesity debate.