A non-profit organization, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, is paying for 14 posters around DC that invoke the Obama daughters, Malia and Sasha.
It features a pre-teen girl, 8-year-old Jasmine Messiah of Miami-Dade public schools, with words inscribed in a thought bubble. The caption reads: “President Obama’s daughters get healthy school lunches. Why don’t I?”
The White House is protesting. Two Obama administration attorneys have contacted the organization and asked them to stop promoting the posters.
“We've been very clear I think from even before the administration started that their two girls would have a very private life, and we want to protect that private life and their privacy," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs says. "And we hope that others will be respectful, as many in the media have been, about not using the girls as a publicity stunt."
But the organization’s president, Dr. Neal Barnard, who says the White House’s request is in violation of First Amendment rights, says his group has no reason to pull the ads. “What are you talking about,” he said. “Take down these ads?”
Barnard says his goal is to bring publicity to his campaign, and in the process, force the hand of President Obama and his administration to support the Child Nutrition Act. The act will provide money for vegetarian non-dairy foods and lower fat content in school lunches.
"Every meal right now is really meaty and cheesy," he says. Offering healthy alternatives fits right in with the President's health care reform push, and the emphasis on preventive care. "If we can bail out banks and offer cash for clunkers, certainly we can take steps to ensure our kids have options to high cholersterol meals," he said.
President Obama would support his group's mission behind the ads: to encourage Congress to mandate in the Child Nutrition Act that public school cafeteria's offer a vegetarian non-dairy option with lower fat content.
"Every meal right now is really meaty and cheesy," he says. "Offering healthy alternatives fits right in with the President's health care reform push, and the emphasis on preventive care. "If we can bail out banks and offer cash for clunkers, certainly we can take steps to ensure our kids have options to high cholesterol meals."
"The contrast is not with the daughters," Barnard says of the controversial poster, pointing out that Sasha and Malia's names and pictures are not in the ad. "The contrast is with the school the president's daughters are able to patronize. Sidwell Friends is able to offer health nutritious meal options." Veggie burgers are offered alongside hamburgers, vegetarian chili is served next to meat chili with higher cholesterol, he says.
Critics of the ads, however, insist that the Obama daughters have no place in a public awareness campaign. In fact, First Lady Michelle Obama has asked the press and public to respect the privacy of the first daughters.
Messiah, the girl featured in the ads, has written a letter to the Obama daughters. In it, she wrote, “I’m glad that your school, Sidwell Friends, already has lots of healthy options in the cafeteria, including vegetarian chili and roasted vegetable pizza.
She continued, “The problem is that most students eat unhealthy foods, like hot dogs, pepperoni pizza, ham sandwiches and cheeseburgers, every day at school. A lot of schools, including mine, don’t offer enough healthy fruits, vegetables and vegetarian meals.”