Networks Hound Burger King for Launching Enormous Sandwich

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

     Its been a rough week on TV for Burger King. The Kings 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, its fair game for those who would protect Americans from themselves.

     Peter Jennings, on March 28s 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 CSPIs work for it in his newscast, telling viewers that Burger King isnt even trying to pretend its new breakfast offering is good for you. He went on to say, The money is in the size.

     This is consistent with findings in twoBusiness & Media Institute studies on news coverage of obesity. Most recently, in Supersized Bias II,  food industry critics were portrayed as unbiased experts most of the time. Jennings characterization of CSPI as nutritionists is just such a portrayal. On NBCs March 29 Today, long-time industry critic and nutrition professor Marion Nestle was a familiar go-to source for calorie condemnation.

     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 youd 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. NBCs Alexis Glick, reporting on Today, said, Nearly 59 million Americans are considered obese. Nutritionists say these portion sizes dont help.

     Likewise, Matt Lauer of NBCs 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.

     Lauer understood that the notion of personal responsibility makes the free market work. Alexis Glick of NBC pointed out on March 29s 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. Its kind of like a platter between two buns, Denny Marie Post said on Today.

     During the lengthy Today segment in which Hardees and Pizza Huts 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.

     Matt Lauer, at least, seemed aware that he couldnt blame the fast food restaurants for Americas obesity problem. Ending the fast food-bashing segment, he said, Again, its all about personal responsibility. If you go into a restaurant and order this every day, its your own fault if you end up with problems.

     If you really know whats going on, Skolnik added.

Supersized Bias was the Business & Media Institutes first study on media bias against the food industry in the obesity debate.