By Jonathan Easley - 02/19/14 11:28 AM EST
Michelle Kwan shouldn’t be allowed to do advertisements for Coca-Cola while sitting on a presidential fitness and nutrition council, a leading healthcare nonprofit said Wednesday.
The D.C.-based Center for Science in the Public Interest lambasted the Obama administration over the former Olympic figure skater’s ad, arguing that allowing her to endorse the sugary drink undermined the integrity of President Obama’s Council on Fitness, Nutrition and Sports.
“Therefore the Council has an obligation to protect the integrity of its public health messages. Allowing makers of sugar drinks or junk foods to rent Michelle Kwan or other Council members is unacceptable.”
Kwan is holding a regular Coke — not a Diet Coke or no-calorie Coke Zero — in the website ad.
The nonprofit says Kwan and at least five other athletes on the panel are current or former “endorsers of sugar drinks.”
It said it was impossible to reconcile Kwan’s efforts on the nutrition commission with her paid support for a soft drink company, “since Coca-Cola and the President's Council communicate opposing messages when it comes to sugar drinks.”
In a letter to the commission, the health group asked for guidelines to protect “the integrity of the Council’s public health messages, including its recommendation that people drink water and not sugary beverages.”
“When the Council chooses a celebrity to deliver its public health messages, it gives that celebrity a ‘halo,’ to use the jargon of the public relations industry,” the letter continues. “The question is whether the Council is OK with Coca-Cola and other sugar-drink producers renting that halo for their purposes?”
In an email to the public health group that was sent earlier this month, a Council official said members are “required to comply with stringent Federal laws pertaining to conflict of interest and other ethics regulations.”