Introducing a report on Monday's NBC Nightly News about a New York City ban on large sugary drinks being overturned by a New York State Supreme Court judge, anchor Brian Williams touted how Mayor Michael Bloomberg "is saying this isn't over yet."
In the report that followed, correspondent Rehema Ellis proclaimed: "In a city of more than 8 million, where health officials say the obesity epidemic is responsible for more than 5,000 deaths a year, the Mayor says his fight to make New Yorkers healthier will continue."
Ellis noted the judge's ruling that the proposed ban was "arbitrary and capricious" and that "Some in New York welcomed the judge's decision."
On Tuesday's Today, correspondent Mara Schiavocampo revealed that more than "some" New Yorkers disapproved of the ban, lamenting: "Now the Mayor had hoped the law would be one final legacy of his last term. But despite his enthusiasm for measure, it wasn't exactly a popular one. One poll found 60% of New Yorkers thought it was a bad idea."
Schiavocampo began the segment by declaring the court ruling to be: "A sour turn for New York City's crusade against sweet drinks."
She promoted how Bloomberg "has made national headlines for his in-your-face campaigns against obesity, smoking, and most recently, teen pregnancy."
In a later panel discussion on the topic, the Today cast was skeptical of the ban but all applauded Bloomberg's motivation. Co-host Willie Geist observed: "Well, I think the intent was good. But it was, you could go to a restaurant here and it would be banned, 16 ounces. And there was a 7-11 literally next door where you could get 64 ounces."
Weatherman Al Roker remarked: "And there was no [limit], as far as refills were concerned....But I think the intention was good. And if nothing else, it focuses attention on the issue."
News reader Natalie Morales chimed in: "Intention is good....You hope people think about that as they're making those choices."
Coverage of the court decision continued into the 10 a.m. ET hour of the morning show, when co-hosts Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb actually mocked the weight of the judge who made the ruling. Kotb held up a picture of the judge featured in the New York Post, prompting Gifford to remark: "Because he likes his big drinks." After a bout of laughter, Kotb added: "Anyway. We're not making any judgments on anyone's girth."
As Giffords held up a large soda that the ban was supposed to prevent from being sold, Kotb reacted: "Could you imagine drinking that? That's, that's kind of gross."
Gifford praised Bloomberg's effort: "This is one of those instances where I think you got to say – good for Mayor Bloomberg, he's trying to come up with something....Because we have a huge, huge problem in our country of obesity, which leads to all kinds of other health problems..."
However, she did skeptically add: "I don't think you can legislate either morality, in a sense, or people's behavior. People are going to do – people are going drink what they want to drink and eat what they want to eat..."
Kotb responded: "But if you ban things, I'm sure there are fewer smokers now because there are fewer places for them to smoke." Gifford acknowledged a friend who said she would quit smoking if it were banned completely and concluded: "So in that sense, a lot of good comes out of it."
Here is a full transcript of the March 11 Nightly News report:
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Surprising story here in New York tonight. It too is about health, but also civil liberties and the reach of government. Mayor Michael Bloomberg rather famously tried to ban large fountain drinks in the city as an effort to combat obesity. But a judge has said no. He stopped the order and now the Mayor is saying this isn't over yet. Our report on all of it tonight from NBC's Rehema Ellis.
REHEMA ELLIS: The ruling from the New York State Supreme Court judge came late this afternoon, stopping New York City from banning large sugary drinks. In his ruling, the judge called the ban on drinks larger than 16 ounces "arbitrary and capricious."
PETE WILLIAMS: He says the ban would be completely arbitrary because a big drink might be banned at a restaurant, but you could walk right next door and get the same thing at a 7-11. And it doesn't cover, he says, all high-calorie sugary drinks.
ELLIS: Some in New York welcomed the judge's decision.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I think it's great. There shouldn't have been a ban in general or even proposition for a ban.
ELLIS: The American Beverage Association issued a statement saying, "The Court ruling provides a sigh of relief to New Yorkers and thousands of small businesses in New York City that would have been harmed by this arbitrary and unpopular ban."
It's not the first time New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has tried to enact laws to effect public health. Bloomberg won court approval to force restaurants to post calorie information and ban artificial trans-fats in restaurant food. The Mayor plans to appeal today's ruling.
MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: We believe that the Judge's decision was clearly in error and that we will prevail on appeal. If we are serious about fighting obesity, we have to be honest about what causes it and we have to have the courage to tackle it head on.
ELLIS: In a city of more than 8 million, where health officials say the obesity epidemic is responsible for more than 5,000 deaths a year, the Mayor says his fight to make New Yorkers healthier will continue. Rehema Ellis, NBC News, New York.