Andrea Mitchell Ignores Facts, Derides Republicans for Attempt to Reform School Lunch Standards

On the May 22 edition of MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Reports, Mitchell spent over 3 minutes interviewing the executive director of the Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign, Sam Kass, and blasting House Republicans for attempting to “roll back standards” on the new requirements for school breakfasts and lunches as required by President Obama’s Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.

Without discussing the provision or any of the relevant arguments for allowing schools to opt-out of the new standards, Mitchell and Kass – who, by the way is engaged to MSNBC’s Alex Wagner – spent the segment attempting to delegitimize Republicans as heartless penny savers who will classify pizza and ketchup as vegetables at the expense of the soon-to-be-diabetic children of America. In reality the program has faced significant opposition from schools and students themselves. [See video below. Click here for MP3 audio]

According to January 2014 GAO report, 321 schools from 42 states – yes, including reliably blue, Democratic ones – have left the federal school lunch program since the new standards were put into effect. In addition, 1.1 million students dropped out of the National School Lunch Program in 2013 (Wasson).

Schools have been forced to cut take money out of other budgets in order to subsidize expensive vegetables that many students simply throw away, perhaps because, the lunches, in the words of one Kentucky student, “tasted like vomit.”

Despite Kass and Mitchell’s spin, it is not mean, partisan House Republicans that are calling for change, but the schools themselves. What’s more, even if it were mostly congressional Republicans calling for change, Mitchell’s manner of covering the controversy doesn’t do justice to the debate, which ultimately boils down to a long-standing divide in Washington where conservatives and Republicans generally favor devolution of policy concerns to the states and localities while liberal seek to centralize power and influence in Washington.

It’s just some food for thought for Ms. Mitchell and her producers should they want to improve the menu of their news coverage. See transcript below:
 

5/22/14
Andrea Mitchell Reports
12:28 PM
2 minutes and 2 seconds

ANDREA MITCHELL: What is the challenge now on the Hill to the legislation that would make school lunches healthier?

SAM KASS: Yeah. Well, what we're seeing right now, Republicans in congress really trying to overrule pediatricians and nutritionists to really intervene and roll back the standards that have been set to make sure the food in schools is healthy. We've seen this in 2012 and Republicans did the same thing and they classified pizza as a vegetable, which we know all parents know that’s just ridiculous. We need to make sure we're seeing science lead the way and we make sure that all of the food in our schools is healthy.


MITCHELL: I remember back in the day when there were cuts in the food stamp program and other programs when the budget director David Stockman tried to classify ketchup as a vegetable, true story, Reagan years. So this isn't the first time this has happened. What's -- let's talk about the value of food and, you know, how many kids, usually from low income families, obviously, are dependent on these meals and the meals lead to better education and lead to making them healthy enough to sit in class and learn. What is it that we're talking about here in the meals that the first lady and you have tried to make a reality?

KASS: Yeah. So right now there's 32 million children who depend on nutrition in schools everyday, and for many of them it's the only good meal they get. Right now we're making sure that junk foods are going to come out of the vending machines this coming fall and we’re making sure that the lunch is full of fruits and vegetables and whole grains. And right now all of that is under threat. It's hard to imagine considering that one in three kids in this country is on track to have diabetes and that we're spending $180 billion a year treating those related conditions and who knows where that's going to go once one in three of our country is diabetic. So this is vital to the future of our country. And as you pointed out Andrea, when kids get a nutritious, even just breakfast, their test scores increase by 17 percent. This is absolutely vital on every front to the health and well being of our kids and of our country.

Laura Flint
Laura Flint is a 2014 summer intern for the MRC's News Analysis Division.