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Judicial Watch • Gannett Reporter Simultaneously Promotes Obama Policy While Covering it “Objectively”

Gannett Reporter Simultaneously Promotes Obama Policy While Covering it “Objectively”

Gannett Reporter Simultaneously Promotes Obama Policy While Covering it “Objectively”

DECEMBER 19, 2014

In a scandalous example of corrupt media supporting the Obama agenda, a mainstream newspaper reporter simultaneously wrote “objective news” about the First Lady’s contentious public school lunch program while secretly promoting it for a district, a Judicial Watch probe has found.

It involves a small public school district in Weston Wisconsin. Last month a student at the high school, D.C. Everest High, organized a boycott of the new and despised school lunch, which is part of Michelle Obama’s $4.5 billion law (Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act) to combat childhood obesity and end childhood hunger in low-income neighborhoods. The student, a senior who is also the editor-in-chief of the school newspaper, organized a successful boycott that got enough media coverage to catch the feds’ attention.

When officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the agency responsible for implementing the First Lady’s costly law, contacted the small school in a tiny Wisconsin town, Judicial Watch launched an investigation. It appeared in news reports as if the administration was attempting to silence or intimidate the students from expressing their disdain for the federally-mandated, low-calorie lunches that kids nationwide have called disgusting and repulsive. The law requires all school districts receiving federal money to implement stringent nutritional standards by limiting fat, sodium and sugar and offering more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. It also sets calorie limits.

This has ignited fury among students and parents nationwide as well as a few media outlets, though we’ve seen plenty of evidence that much of the coverage has been less than objective. In the Wisconsin case, a reporter covering the story for Gannett, the nation’s largest newspaper publisher, was secretly writing copy for the D.C. Everest school district to push the hated federal lunch program to parents, documents obtained by JW show. The reporter, Michelle Rothmeyer, covered the story, presumably objectively, for Gannett’s Wausau Daily Herald.

Behind the scenes, however, the journalist was working with district officials to bolster the federal lunch mandate, according to records obtained by JW. They include electronic mail exchanges between Rothmeyer and district officials that illustrate they were collaborating to promote the controversial lunch measure and manage the public relations crisis after the student boycott. This occurred while the reporter was covering the story for the Wausau Daily Herald. In one exchange between Rothmeyer and the district’s food service manager, Christine Welsh, the reporter reveals that she’s composing a parent fact sheet to serve as a primer on the regulations and what constitutes a ‘meal’ as well as why it’s important to model healthy eating behaviors.

“I have a 930 conference call I have to prep for a complete, and then I will work on tidying up my drafts and sending them your way for review,” says Rothmeyer’s email which also copies the district superintendent and assistant superintendent. “Overall, Chris and I feel that going forward it is important to be proactive in sharing what the District is doing on the health/wellness/nutrition front and we will utilize digital platforms to do so.” Welsh, the district food service manager, shares an “interesting tidbit” with the reporter; last year the district received $1,255,473 in federal and state money for participating in the First Lady’s lunch program. “This may not be something that you share in this information, but I wanted you to have perspective on how much of a financial impact dropping out of the program would have,” Welsh tells Rothmeyer.

This email exchange is amazing because it shows the newswoman actively colluding with district officials to produce a “parent letter” and “fact sheet” for use by the school district itself to promote what she considers “healthy eating behaviors.” The reporter says she and the school official feel they should be “proactive in sharing what the District is doing.” Is the reporter a government policy advocate while at the same time writing articles on the school lunch boycott for a major news conglomerate? To be fair, we’ve seen a lot of this sort of Obama agenda promoting among the mainstream media but this case appears to be in a class of its own. It certainly violates the journalism code of ethics involving conflict of interest.

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