NBC's Lauer to Bloomberg: Soda Ban 'Sounds Ridiculous' As NYC Celebrates National Donut Day

In a challenging interview with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Friday's NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer questioned whether a plan to ban large sodas in the city was hypocritical: "You announced this on a Thursday. Today is Friday and it's....National Donut Day – and your administration has come out in support of National Donut Day....It sounds ridiculous." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

Bloomberg strained to justify the obvious contradiction: "It doesn't sound ridiculous. One donut's not going to hurt you, it's in moderation anything – most things are okay." Lauer followed up: "If anything in moderation works for donuts why not with soft drinks?"

At the top of the segment, Lauer was highly skeptical of the new regulation as he explained:

You say this is about fighting obesity. Some people who've jumped out criticizing you say it's about personal freedom, it's about not wanting government to tell them what to do. We conducted an online poll overnight. And not only do people in some cases worry about their freedom, they worry whether it is going to work. 83% said this will not solve the obesity problem.

Bloomberg dismissed such criticism and even bragged about his big government push to curb smoking in the city: "Where did I hear this before? Wasn't it smoking wasn't going to work? Today it's one of the best things we've ever done....virtually every major city has adopted the smoking ordinances. Countries in Europe, the whole – lots of countries have adopted it. It just takes time for people to understand."

Moments later, Bloomberg argued that banning sodas over 16 ounces was "not exactly taking away your freedoms," adding, "It's not something the Founding Fathers fought for."

Lauer wondered why the New York Mayor was crusading on the issue: "Why is this a priority for you at this point, with all the other things on your plate, all the other crises facing people in this city from crime to education and the economy?"

Bloomberg replied: "Education's better. Crime's down. Created more jobs than ever before in our city. What we have done is we've improved life expectancy. Life expectancy in New York City is three years greater than the American average."

On Thursday's Today, Lauer moderated a liberal panel that unanimously praised Bloomberg for the nanny state intervention.


Here is a full transcript of the June 1 interview:

7:01AM ET TEASE:

ANN CURRY: Also ahead this morning, there is new fallout over New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's push to limit the size of sodas and other sugary drinks. Some think it's a great idea. Others have been very vocal in their criticism. So, in fact, we asked you to weigh in on our website and the results were actually very lopsided. So we're going to talk about that with Mayor Bloomberg in an exclusive live interview coming up and also ask him if he is sending a mixed message on obesity.

7:15AM ET SEGMENT:

MATT LAUER: Now to the new proposal from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg that's being met with some mixed reaction. As we told you on Thursday, he wants to outlaw large sodas and sugary drinks to help fight the obesity epidemic. Mayor Bloomberg is with us this morning exclusively. Mr. Mayor, it's nice to see you, good morning.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: Good morning.

LAUER: You say this is about fighting obesity. Some people who've jumped out criticizing you say it's about personal freedom, it's about not wanting government to tell them what to do. We conducted an online poll overnight. And not only do people in some cases worry about their freedom, they worry whether it is going to work. 83% said this will not solve the obesity problem.

BLOOMBERG: Where did I hear this before? Wasn't it smoking wasn't going to work? Today it's one of the best things we've ever done. Deaths from smoking dramatically coming down across the country, virtually every major city has adopted the smoking ordinances. Countries in Europe, the whole – lots of countries have adopted it. It just takes time for people to understand.

The real difference, however, between smoking and full sugar drinks or obesity, is that in the case of smoking it's not clear that one cigarette doesn't cause cancer. Nobody really knows. In the case of full sugar drinks, in moderation it's fine. And all we're trying to do is to explain to people that if you drink a little bit less you will live longer. You'll have a better life.

LAUER: But do you-

BLOOMBERG: And today obesity is one of the biggest problems this country has.

LAUER: Do you have to explain that by banning a certain size soft drink or sugary drink?

BLOOMBERG: We're not banning you from getting the stuff. Just, if you want 32 ounces the restaurant has to serve it in two glasses. That's not exactly taking away your freedoms. It's not something the Founding Fathers fought for. This is just reminding you – and all the studies show if the glass in front of you or plate in front of you is smaller, you'll eat less.

LAUER: Do you think people are just going to simply go around this, they're going to buy two 16-ounce drinks...

BLOOMBERG: Some will.

LAUER: ...or they're going to walk down the street from the deli to the grocery store and buy the big container of soda?

BLOOMBERG: Some will and they still have the right to do that and it doesn't hurt them at all. But those who will drink less or eat less, those people will be better off.

LAUER: Why is this a priority for you at this point, with all the other things on your plate, all the other crises facing people in this city from crime to education and the economy?

BLOOMBERG: Education's better. Crime's down. Created more jobs than ever before in our city. What we have done is we've improved life expectancy. Life expectancy in New York City is three years greater than the American average. Think about that. 8.4 million people living three years longer. And, incidentally, we're the only place that's brought down childhood obesity about 5% in the last couple years. It's really quite amazing.

LAUER: You announced this on a Thursday. Today is Friday and it's a national holiday. Do you know what the holiday is?

BLOOMBERG: Yeah. It is National Donut Day.

LAUER: That's right, and your administration – and it's a real thing, not a national holiday, but it is National Donut Day – and your administration has come out in support of National Donut Day.

BLOOMBERG: Two things.

LAUER: It sounds ridiculous.

BLOOMBERG: It doesn't sound ridiculous. One donut's not going to hurt you, it's in moderation anything – most things are okay. Number two, just think about what National Donut Day is. National Donut Day celebrates a lot of young ladies during World War I called "donut lassies," who went and gave donuts to our soldiers while they were fighting to protect democracy, I'll stand behind it.

LAUER: Your Honor, that was before obesity was a national epidemic in this country. And if anything in moderation works for donuts why not with soft drinks?

BLOOMBERG: It – that's exactly what we're trying to do, that's exactly what we're trying to do with soft drinks, is get you to drink in moderation. So instead of getting the big 32-ounce, get two 16 ounces if you want, but history shows, all the tests show, what you'll do is you'll probably only drink one.

LAUER: Happy National Donut Day.

BLOOMBERG: And thank you very much.

LAUER: Good to have you here, thank you very much.

BLOOMBERG: Thank you.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC