Tom Joyner Tunes Out
by David Almasi
During the presidential campaign,
John Kerry was branded a "flip-flopper" for continually
taking conflicting positions on issues. It seems radio host Tom
Joyner has a similar problem. On one hand, Joyner wants black
America to make healthy choices. On the other hand, he's spent
the last year promoting a fast food meal many would consider
It begs the question: What
position will Tom Joyner hold on black health in 2005?
Throughout 2004, Long John
Silver's restaurants across America have offered the "Tom
Joyner Platter." A portion of the sales of every Platter
goes to The Tom Joyner Foundation, which helps students at historically
black colleges and universities.
While sending underprivileged
kids to college and keeping them there is great, doing so at
a potential risk to Americans' health is where Joyner's priorities
can be questioned.
Joyner's namesake meal is a
festival of fried food. It's two battered fish filets, a chicken
"plank," a half-order of crunchy shrimp, french fries,
two hushpuppies, cole slaw and a corn "cobette" (a
portion of an ear).
The Long John Silver's web
site does not feature a specific nutritional breakdown of the
meal, but the site's nutritional calculator can be used to assemble
all of the meal's parts to get a good idea of what one can expect
to ingest. Paired with a large Coke, the estimated meal contains
over 1,600 calories. According to the Food and Drug Administration,
a healthy diet contains a daily intake of between 2,000 and 2,500
So the Tom Joyner Platter can
essentially be a person's only meal of the day. Apart from the
high calorie count, it contains an estimated 195 carbs and more
than the recommended daily intake of fats and sodium.
Dietary habits in the black
community have been a long-running concern among health experts.
A 1998 U.S. Department of Agriculture report found only five
percent of African-Americans exercised a "good" diet.
This was echoed by a 2000 study of black Mississippi high school
students that found "African-American students appear to
be going in the wrong direction with unhealthy eating habits."
In a 2004 release from the National Cancer Institute, Dr. Reed
Tuckson adds: "African-Americans are also less likely to
believe that diet can affect their risk of disease. Many reject
messages about cancer prevention because of these attitudes."
This is where Tom Joyner appears
to flip-flop. In 2002 and 2003, he worked with ABC Radio and
the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to promote "Take
a Loved One to the Doctor Day." Noting that African-Americans'
higher rates of cancer and heart disease and a two-to-one diabetes
mortality rate compared to whites "is not the kind of leadership
we need," Joyner pleaded for people to "drag"
their most stubborn loved ones and themselves to a doctor for
How about avoiding the Tom
Hopefully, more deserving students
will go to college in 2005 and beyond because of Joyner's partnership
with Long John Silver's. But how many people will develop health
problems such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer and obesity
due to eating fast food?
It's unfair to say this restaurant
and this meal are the sole contributor to America's health problems.
People make their own choices. And there is little doubt that
many are making poor health choices right now.
Tom Joyner obviously understood
this two years ago. Why did he then choose to promote a fast
food extravaganza with dubious health benefits in 2004? He flip-flopped.
He made a poor choice.
Tom Joyner doesn't lack a conscience,
but it appears his charitable priorities clashed with his other
goals in this case. His passion for promoting higher education
beat out his concern about health and diet. It's not like voting
to commit troops in Iraq and then not supporting them, but a
questionable decision nonetheless.
David Almasi is staff director
of Project 21. Comments may be sent to Project21@nationalcenter.org.
Published by The National Center for Public Policy Research.
Reprints permitted provided source is credited. New Visions Commentaries
reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those
of Project 21.
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