John “Sue the Bastards” Banzhaf gets a big fat “F” for his misleading statements about a recent appeals court decision reinstating a lawsuit that blamed McDonald’s for making people fat. Although the decision was based on a technicality, Banzhaf — who teaches law at George Washington University — made a freshman mistake and told MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough the court ruled that McDonald’s had actually misled parents. Wishing doesn’t make it so.
Here is the exchange from last week’s show:
SCARBOROUGH: Parents are saying in this case — tell me whether it’s the truth or not — that they were misled into believing that McDonald’s was healthy or at least that it wouldn’t make their kids obese. That seems to go against common sense.
BANZHAF: Well, that’s not what the court said. What the court said is that the parents were misled.
The appeals court would be surprised to hear that. In fact, it didn’t come anywhere close to saying anyone was misled. Read the opinion — it can be found here — and you’ll see that the decision makes no statement about what McDonald’s did or did not do. Instead, the decision rests exclusively on how broadly to apply New York General Business law 349. For a summary analysis of the decision, click here.
Later in Scarborough’s show, Representative Ric Keller, the Florida Republican who sponsored a “Cheeseburger Bill” in the House of Representatives, responded to Banzhaf’s misleading claims:
I actually took time to read the opinion. And contrary to what you just heard from [Banzhaf], nowhere in there does the judge say this is serious or this is winnable or this is valid. It was a procedural thing, where they said let the plaintiff have some discovery before we dismiss it next time. That’s all it is.
Banzhaf’s lackluster scholarship also makes an appearance in an op-ed in today’s USA TODAY. There he claimed: “Five fat lawsuits have already been successful.” But according to Reason magazine’s Jacob Sullum, none of Banzhaf’s five cases even resemble the case blaming restaurants for making people fat. As we’ve explained before,
Banzhaf touts these unrelated lawsuits in a desperate attempt to befuddle future juries.
Standing in opposition to Banzhaf’s outrageous article was a more sensible editorial. It correctly noted:
Ultimately, good eating habits are a matter of personal and parental responsibility. As the trial judge in the McDonald’s case put it: “If a person knows or should know that eating copious orders of supersized McDonald’s products is unhealthy and may result in weight gain, it is not the place of the law to protect them from their own excesses.”