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Confirmed: Nutrition Doesn’t Explain Right-Wing Attacks on Michelle Obama

Eric Boehlert – Senior Fellow, Media Matters for America Posted: 1/5/12 03:18 PM ET

The dawning of an election year is certain to bring more attacks on Michelle Obama from the far-right press, which for years has unleashed an unprecedented barrage of name-calling assaults on the First Lady; assaults that in the past would have been deemed unthinkable by even partisan opponents who routinely avoided targeting First Ladies and their mostly ceremonial duties.

But conservatives like Michelle Malkin have trampled that common sense tradition and now routinely, and gleefully, uncork all sorts of sordid smear campaigns against Michelle Obama.

But to hear them tell it, it’s all the First Lady’s fault. Conservatives become unglued because Obama’s so busy pressing their buttons with her nutrition activism, which apparently drives them bonkers and causes staffers at Fox News to fabricate fairy tales.

According to the haters, what kind of conservative wouldn’t be offended by the Nanny State rhetoric emanating from the White House, with all that big government hand-wringing about people eating too much food, when everyone knows the answer to obesity is to just eating less food, and that exerting a little personal responsibility can cure this problem overnight.

Indeed, the guttural response to the First Lady ‘s nutritional efforts has been so strong the right-wing media now practically campaign in favor of obesity, applying the simple, albeit deranged, rule that if Michelle Obama supports healthy food and exercise, it must be bad.

The First Lady’s incessant critics insist intrusive nutrition activism goes way too far and invites their angry response. I mean, just look at this goody-goody health rhetoric:

We’re just too darned fat.


Overweight and obesity are among the most pressing new health challenges we face today.


The fight against obesity begins at home.


America needs to get healthier one small step at a time. Each small step does make a difference, whether it’s taking the stairs instead of an elevator or snacking on fruits and vegetables.


Americans need to understand that overweight and obesity are literally killing us.

Can’t you just hear conservatives complaining about how meddling and annoying the First Lady is?

Right, except all those above quotes came from Tommy Thompson while serving as President Bush’s Secretary of Health and Human Services. Except that it was Thompson who once urged every American to lose ten pounds as a patriotic gesture, and suggested Congress pass tax credits for people who thinned down. (Talk about a big government approach!)

Except that the previous Republican administration, like the current one, loudly rang the alarm about the nation’s obesity epidemic, while beseeching kids to eat healthier and to exercise more.


In 2004, the Bush Administration and Republican-led Congress passed the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004, requiring USDA to update the standards to align school meal patterns with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

And yes, even former First Lady Laura Bush often spoke out about child obesity, highlighting proactive public policy solutions: “Our government is working to address one of the greatest dangers to America’s young people: childhood overweight and obesity.”

Another flashback:

In an effort to reverse alarming and escalating trends of obesity and overweight, David Satcher, MD, PhD, and more than 30 national organizations, today launched an unprecedented initiative to improve nutrition and fitness among the nation’s children. Laura Bush is serving as honorary chairman of today’s Healthy Schools Summit: Taking Action for Children’s Nutrition and Fitness, and Dr. Satcher, opening speaker at the Summit, is chairman.

But what was the right-wing media’s response to the Bush push for healthier kids? It was crickets of course, as it should have been since who would oppose health officials, as well as First Family members, highlighting a deadly health epidemic sweeping the nation? What is there to possibly complain about in terms of trying to draw attention to a dire public health issues effecting children?

During the Bush administration there was no possible reason to complain, so most right-wing media pundits stayed quiet. But insert a Democratic president and substitute Michelle Obama for Laura Bush, and suddenly all hell breaks loose within the GOP Noise Machine because Democrats are advocating against childhood obesity!

This is pure Obama Derangement Syndrome.

Because many of the far-right Obama-hating pundits who routinely whip themselves into a frenzy denouncing First Lady Michelle Obama for her efforts to cut down obesity among children were the same ones who didn’t say boo when key players from the Bush administration did much the same thing.

The routine, partisan trashing of the First Lady now on display represents a sad new chapter in American politics. Her critics claim she’s to blame for pushing an activists health agenda. But history shows us that nutrition doesn’t explain the unhinged conservative attacks on Michelle Obama.

Cross-posted at County Fair, a Media Matters blog.

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