McDonald's Corp. CEO Jim Skinner came out swinging Thursday when asked about Ronald McDonald and whether the burger chain hooks children with junk food.Because all of my adolescent life, Ronald McDonald opened my mouth and forced Big Macs down my gullet.
Skinner, speaking at the company's annual shareholder meeting at McDonald's headquarters outside Chicago, said that newspapers ads Wednesday calling for Ronald's retirement had prompted an outpouring of support to his office, with parents and customers asking Skinner "to defend their right to choose."
A group called Corporate Accountability International paid for the ads, which said Ronald is encouraging unhealthy eating habits and contributing to childhood obesity and related diseases such as diabetes.
At the meeting, shareholders soundly defeated a proposal the group had helped craft asking McDonald's to issue a report on its responses to childhood obesity.
When Deborah Lapidus, an organizer with the activist group, said McDonald's is interfering with political efforts to curb marketing unhealthy food to children, Skinner replied that "this is about choice."
"We believe in the democratic process and our government officials believe in the democratic process," he said to applause from the audience of McDonald's shareholders. "This is about choice, this is about personal, individual right to choose in the society we live in. That's where we play, that's where you play, and we have every right to do so."
Skinner also got applause when he called Ronald, the burger chain's smiling spokesclown, "an ambassador for good" and noted that he is the face of Ronald McDonald House Charities.Personal resposibility? Why do that when it is easier to just blame "they" for all of your woes.
"He does not advertise unhealthy food to children," Skinner said. "We provide many choices that fit with the balanced, active lifestyle. It is up to them to choose and their parents to choose, and it is their responsibility to do so."
When another shareholder said he was disappointed that Ronald wasn't at the meeting, Skinner replied: "Ronald hasn't been here because he's out in the field busy doing work and fighting through the protestors."
Hat Tip to Ken Shima for the heads up on this...