'American Morning' on Yo-Yo Diet of Obesity Hype

     Has CNN’s “American Morning” gotten its fill of the “obesity epidemic” hype? Maybe not, but on two separate occasions in the past few days, the program’s reporters have scoffed at candy makers’ and schools’ attempts to keep kids from developing a sweet tooth.

      “A major candy maker will stop marketing to young kids,” anchor Miles O’Brien noted as he introduced a February 6 “Minding Your Business” segment by Ali Velshi. “Wait a minute. Candy and kids. They go hand-in-hand. These aren’t candy cigarettes,” O’Brien asked incredulously.

     No, Velshi told O’Brien, just plain candy.

     “It doesn’t sound right, it doesn’t sound fair,” Velshi complained before explaining the story. Addressing the concerns of European regulators, the business correspondent noted, Master Foods – the makers of M&Ms and Snickers among other candies – will stop marketing their products to children.

      “I’m all for companies doing the right thing, but this one just seemed a little mean,” Velshi complained, hitting the company for its actions rather than European regulators for their meddling in the company’s practices.

     Two days later, CNN anchor Soledad O’Brien reacted sharply to schools that bar parents from bringing cupcakes and other sweet treats in for special parties, like Valentine’s Day or a child’s birthday.

      “I think this is ridiculous, honestly,” Soledad O’Brien told medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

      “I guess it’s because, you sort of feel like, well, isn’t the [teacher’s] job to teach them moderation. You know the job is to teach, one cupcake is how you celebrate, not scarfing down the entire box of cupcakes,” O’Brien complained. “Isn’t that the better message,” she asked Gupta.

     O’Brien’s remarks are a sharp departure from just two weeks earlier. As the Business & Media Institute on January 25, “American Morning” dusted off a 6-month old study by the liberal Kaiser Family Foundation to lament the lack of government regulation of advertising to kids.

      “Now there’s evidence of hidden messages that could be adding to America’s weight problem,” anchor Soledad O’Brien teased viewers at home as she introduced Gupta’s story on kid-friendly online games at food and candy Web sites.

     In his January 25 story, Gupta failed to raise parental responsibility as an issue in regulating a child’s diet, exercise regimen and Internet use. Instead, CNN’s top doc complained that “Where television ads are regulated in length, Internet ads for now are only regulated voluntarily.”

     Following Gupta’s report, O’Brien noted, without any trace of the indignation she reserved for school cupcake bans, that the “Federal Trade Commission is also studying junk food ads to see how manufacturers are marketing to children.”