The Day I Gave The Sh*ts To 'Fox & Friends'
A special Wonkette guest column by Sal Cataldi!
It was one of the proudest moments of my 30-plus year PR career. It was the day I gave the shits to the staff of "Fox & Friends," the smiley faced folk behind your grandparents' daily dose of far-right propaganda!
The year was 2004. And for the tens of millions of weight-conscious Americans, the Atkins Diet was all the rage.
Based on the best-seller by Dr. Robert Atkins, it was keto before keto – the first popular diet to stress low-carbohydrate consumption as the fast track to rapid weight loss. Atkins's diet did prove hugely effective in the immediate weight loss regard. But in the opinion of the American Medical Association, American Dietetic Association and many more, it could be extremely hazardous in the long run. Why? Because the unlimited consumption of fats – mainly the saturated ones in the steak, eggs, bacon, cheese and burgers that became staples of this high protein regime – could lead to heart disease.
But in the early '00s, Americans were in love with the immediate gratification that the Atkins plan offered. So, naturally, the $3.3 trillion dollar-a-year packaged food industry wanted in on the action. And they did so by partnering with the Atkins company to create Atkins-sanctioned variations of their most popular offerings.
In early 2004, my PR firm was enlisted to publicize a new line of Atkins co-branded products for a well-known bakery concern. These included everything from cookies and crumb cakes to cheese Danish and donuts, ones that would purportedly be kind to the consumer's waistline and in step with Atkins's low-carb ethos.
How could they create such sugary delectables that could also virtually melt fat away? In large part by replacing the sugar, one of the biggest and baddest of carbs, with a substitute concocted from hydrogenated corn and other vegetables. This diet miracle ingredient, maltitol, was 90 percent as sweet as sugar, but with less than half of the calories and carbs. And the numbers crunchers at Industrial Food America loved it, as it was way cheaper than real sugar.
Naturally, our client wanted to make a big splash with this new product line. So we did what PR people do in such cases – we sent out colorful packages of samples far and wide – to newspapers, magazines, food blogs, AM radio jocks and, of course, the much-watched national morning news shows like "Fox & Friends."
I had been going to the "Fox & Friends" studio almost weekly since the show debuted in 1998. My job was to book and accompany my entertainment and business clients to the show for their guest segments.
In those early days, Fox News was definitely skewing politically right. But it wasn't yet the full bore asylum of lunatic fringe hosts, lies, unfounded fears, and dangerous daily incitement that it is today.
I was actually acquainted with the two male hosts from earlier settings. I knew the fair-haired one from a stint at a short-lived lifestyle network from NBC called America's Talking; the dark-haired gent from a freelance gig at a Long Island-based TV news network. The first in the long line of leggy blonde fembot hostesses of "Fox & Friends" was a loquacious Texas wild woman, someone I often joked with in the Green Room. This was, of course, before she was replaced in 2008 for calling then-candidate Barack Obama's playful hand gesture with his wife Michelle a "terrorist fist jab," something she said was popular with the Taliban (it wasn't).
So when I called a "Fox & Friends" producer I knew well with the offer of mass quantities of free cookies, cakes and donuts, he said, "Yes please! Send 'em right over! We're starving!"
In the fast-paced world of news, mealtimes always take a back seat to feeding the hard news beast. Sustenance is often deferred in the march towards deadlines, so there's always a need for some easy-to-grab grub, for those whose deadlines interfere with a meal. So off it went, our refrigerator-sized crate. It probably contained at least 24 individual boxes of product. It was enough sweet stuff to put a network of on-air reporters, producers, techs, and no-paid interns into a diabetic coma.
When I called the producer the next day to see how they liked the treats, I didn't get the answer I was expecting.
Rather than raising his voice, he lowered it and whispered: "Sal, you bastard, you gave everyone here the shits!"
"Look, if you rep the Depends people, I suggest you send over few big boxes of those as we're still sprinting to the head every 15 minutes," he hissed. "There's no way in hell we're doing a segment on this stuff, unless you want it to be a very bad one. And don't show your face around here with any of your clients for a good long while."
What hadn't been properly communicated to me was the gastric horror that could be unleashed in far too many people by the slightest dose of maltitol.
Worse yet, according to my producer friend, when the cakes and cookies arrived, the newsroom went ape-shit. It was binge of mass consumption that would've made professional competitive eaters like Nathan's Hot Dog champs Kobayashi and Joey Chestnut proud.
You see, maltitol can't really be fully digested by our bodies. That means it ferments in the gut and can produce a host of negative consequences just beginning with "bubblegut."
Bubblegut is a snappy terminology for borborygmi – the bubbling sound your stomach makes when it tries to digest certain things. In excess doses, stomach stewing maltitol will cause indigestion, nausea, gas and stomach pain. And, at the end of the list, there's diarrhea, of the explosive variety. The latter, with a chaser of bubblegut that the audio guys actually detected when reporters were on set, was what afflicted the Fox News bingers, from the C-suite to the studio to the mailroom.
Today, the crap flows from the mouths of Fox News personalities. While I was horrified at the time of the incident, today I take great comfort in the discomfort I caused – making the literal crap flow from its rightful place.
At the end of the day, this would all blow over. The product line was eventually withdrawn. Why? Because Americans just can't consume a reasonable amount of anything, especially food. They were overdoing it to the point of gastric disaster. And as Fox News morphed into atomic strength rightwing weirdness and race baiting, I and the clients I attracted had no desire to be any part of it.
All told, I had but one regret from this incident.
My deepest wish was that Roger Ailes, the rotund architect of the Fox News hate and misogyny machine, would've ambled by the craft table that day. And being the glutton for food and control that he was, that he made off with and consumed a kingly ransom of these booby trapped sweets.
I can only hope he is still poohing his eternally rotten brains out in the afterlife below, with Hitler, bin Laden, and the men and women who invented maltitol.
Sal Cataldi is a publicist, writer and musician living in New York City and the Hudson Valley. He is President of Cataldi PR, leader of the band Spaghetti Eastern Music and member of the duos Guitars A Go Go and Vapor Vespers.
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