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March 30th, 2010
11:31 AM ET

Group tells Ronald McDonald to take a hike

By Madison Park
CNNhealth.com writer/producer

A corporate watchdog group that got rid of Joe Camel is after another icon - this time, its target is tall, red and happy.

Corporate Accountability International plans to host a retirement party for Ronald McDonald as it releases a report Wednesday that basically says,  "We’re not loving it. " The report calls for McDonald’s to stop using the iconic clown.

“For nearly 50 years, Ronald McDonald has hooked kids on unhealthy foods spurring a deadly epidemic of diet-related diseases,” said Deborah Lapidus, the senior organizer at Corporate Accountability International. “Ultimately the report makes the case that it’s time that McDonald’s stop directing fast food to kids.  Really, Ronald deserves a break and so do we.”

The group plans to hold events outside of McDonald's throughout the country and wants the fast food chain to stop using its corporate mascot.  The mascot makes children “vulnerable to manipulations to marketing” and turns them on to junk food at an age when childhood obesity rates  have soared, Lapidus said.

The group is employing the same strategy as it did to target the cigarette mascot in its “Send Joe Camel packing” campaign in the 1990s.

“A lot of our thinking is modeled on that campaign and success,” Lapidus said.  “We think of Ronald McDonald as a deep-fried Joe Camel for 21st century.”

McDonald’s does not appear to have plans to ditch the clown.  The company released a statement to CNN.com calling Ronald McDonald “a beloved brand ambassador for McDonald's” and described him as crucial to its charity efforts to help families of hospitalized children.

“Ronald also helps deliver messages to families on many important subjects such as safety, literacy, and the importance of physical activity and making balanced food choices. That's what Ronald McDonald is all about, which our customers know and appreciate,” according to the statement.

Lapidus said the fast food giant's message has  some “fundamental ironies.”

“McDonald’s charity does a lot of good and they do work to be commended,” she said.  “But there are serious question about the face of the charity that’s about kids getting better that also promotes unhealthy food to kids.  Could it not serve the same children without the cross promotion of burgers and fries which are affecting kids' health?”

Other McDonald’s characters, such as Hamburglar or Grimace (the purple triangular fellow) can rest easy.  Health advocates are not targeting them.


soundoff (512 Responses)
  1. Dot

    This is so funny, what a waste of time! I hope Ronald wins, just cause their idiots.

    March 30, 2010 at 20:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. SJB

    A lot of mis-directed anger on here! Corporate Accountability International is on OUR side, people! Some of you are BRAINWASHED into thinking poisonous fast foods, pharmaceutical cnd insurance companies are good. They're not–they are BAD! And yes, right is right and wrong is wrong.

    March 30, 2010 at 20:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. keith

    It's not McDonalds fault that kids get fat – its the parents fault for letting their kids eat it....several times a week. They take 'fast food' to heart and use it when they don't want to make dinner or whatever for their kids....it no different than if you drink and drive....YOU are the one making the choice. McDonalds doesn't hold a gun to the parents head and say 'you must feed your kids our food'.....sorry that's just a cop out to blame McDonalds cause your kid got fat.....most of us adults now ate McDonalds when we were kids, yet we're not fat....because our parents didn't use it the way parents today use it....

    March 30, 2010 at 20:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. crackpusher

    Ohh, the horror! I can feel that evil clown around every corner, just waiting to pounce on my children with a bag of FRIES and a chocolate SHAKE! When will they get this clown off the streets?

    And what about that evil hamburgler? I just know I will come home one day to find that he has burgled my house and left HAMBURGERS everywhere!

    March 30, 2010 at 20:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. sameeker

    The only solution is to repeal all of the taxes and restrictions on the cigarette companies and let people make their own choice. All teh hype and nonsense about second hand smoke is rediculous. Otherwise, what is fair for one if fair all and Ronald will have to go.

    March 30, 2010 at 20:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Michael

    Too bad that in order for children to get this immensely disgusting and unhealthy food, PARENTS have to drive them. Really? Let's spend our time and energy educating parents about the hazards of eating this food many times a week. Besides, Ronald was mostly used in conjunction with the McDonald's play place, which if I am not mistaken, encourages children to be active after a meal.

    March 30, 2010 at 20:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. clemson mom

    Please get real and find something else to fuss about. Everyone has a choice: Go, or don't go, to the fast food restaurants! Nothing is wrong with a Happy Meal every now and then; balance it out with healthy food at home. But that's the problem– the parents are not doing that, and you can't blame it on Ronald McDonald!.

    March 30, 2010 at 20:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. GClare

    Corporate Accountability International should spend more time lauding organization's that do and have been doing good for many, many years - instead of attacking R McD for its own publicity. I wish they would highlight the good large corporations do - and encourage people to at least acknowledge that - or else corporations will stop doing good things! They'll do good work as long as it's valued and if all they do is get attacked - you'll see huge support for charities - such as Ronald McDonald house - go under. This is perhaps the most despicable way of getting publicity - by jumping on the obesity bandwagon instead of praising McDonald's for not only doing great charitable work but by being a leading fast food chain to introduce healthier food (salads, etc.,) into its menu instead of just fat foods. Disgusting on CAI's part.

    March 30, 2010 at 20:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. 1Confederate

    Years ago, someone who was disappointed with the quality and nutritional content of their 'food' told my kids "That's that place with the ***BAD CLOWN***". They won't go near the place.

    March 30, 2010 at 20:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Vee

    McDonald's has way more healthy options on the menu today than when I was growing up eating it. yet somehow kids are bigger today. McDonald's can only do so much to help the problem and ultimately it's not their sole resposibility.

    March 30, 2010 at 20:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. April

    When did the media start raising my kids. If my child would like a Happy Meal it's simple for me to say no. Parents need to be responsible for the well being of their child. It seems the laziness of the parents that are raising their children incorrectly should be under fire, not a timeless icon. Really who is next the Flintstones, the Trix rabbit, how about the Simpsons again? Honestly find better things to do with you funding then trying to tell me how to raise my kids.

    March 30, 2010 at 20:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. David

    I believe people just want to put parenting on autopilot. Parents are supposed to love, nurture & most importantly teach their kids right from wrong. If all we do is blame someone else for our own shortcomings, what kind of message are we teaching our kids? Tell your kids about corporate greed just wanting to make $$. Fast food corporations have focus groups on how to sell more food with greater profit margins -they succeeded & the ignorant fell right into this trap. Imagine someone in a focus group stepping up saying "What about the kids health?" Do you really believe they give a rats ass? Any attempt at being healthy is done only for publicity. It's up to us to send the message that we had it with our fat asses!!

    March 30, 2010 at 20:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. oh brother

    Funny thing, I'm going to release a report that calls for parents to stop pro-creating if they can't raise their kids without the watchful eye of Corporate Accountability International.

    March 30, 2010 at 21:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. KD

    I love living in a country where nothing is your fault. You smoke it's the Camels fault. You're fat it's the clowns fault. You spill hot coffee on yourself it's the merchants fault. This country is turning into a joke.

    March 30, 2010 at 21:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Scott

    Really? Whatever happened to the parent in this equation. Maybe we shouldn't put the blame on a corporation but on parenting in this day and age where parents think its easier/better to just feed their kids crap because its easier on themselves. The problem with America today is there is no sense of personal responsibility.

    March 30, 2010 at 21:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. randy shumaker

    LOL!!! They want to do what! America is officially insane.

    March 30, 2010 at 21:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Coaster

    Ronald McDonald commercials lately have been encouraging kids to get outside and play. I guess a lot of these people haven't had a happy meal since they were kids, or they would see they come with a choice of APPLES AND MILK/JUICE. No one HAS to feed their kids fries and soda, but I bet a lot CHOOSE to. Taking away the icon won't change how lazy many parents have become. I'm sure the clown does NOT influence them to drive to McDonalds and get their overweight kid anothyer burger with fries and a coke. Parents need to learn to JUST SAY NO.

    March 30, 2010 at 21:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. John

    Enough already with these asinine groups. Get a life and do something useful. I don't want you, PETA or the Government telling me what to do, say, think or eat! Ronald McDonald isn't the cause of the problem.

    March 30, 2010 at 21:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. marnie

    Blame, Blame, Blame.....It's not the "clown" taking the kid to McDonalds and going through the drive-through! Stop feeding your kids junk~everyone likes a little hamburger or french fries once in awhile, moderation and excercise are the key! I went to McDonalds as a child, I am NOT fat and in great shape~and I wasn't going because the "clown" told me too!

    March 30, 2010 at 21:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Karl

    If I am not mistaken, most kids can't just up and go to McDonald's. The parents take their kids there. When did it become the government and corporation's job to raise America's youth? When will parents take responsibility for their own children? I am also pretty sure that kids don't want to go to McDonald's just because some clown said they should. All the marketing I have seen tawords kids from McDonalds recently was all about their healthy alternatives like apples and stuff for children. Again, it's the parent's responsibility.

    March 30, 2010 at 21:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Carrie-Ann

    What you mean the commercials mean my kids have to eat there> it is not McDonald's fault kids are fat...it is PARENTS fault the kids are fat. I have 3 kids (all boys) and we rarely if ever eat at McDonalds. When we do they don't get fries they get the apples and they have milk/apple juice (not soda). I also don't let them play video games all day either.

    Gotta love the "blame everyone else" mentality our country seems to have

    March 30, 2010 at 21:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Pinewalker

    I agree with most of the posts. Parents make the choice to take kids there, they aren't lured in by Ronald McDonald...if anything he probably scares the heck out of some of them and my parents have stayed many a worried night in a Ronald McDonald house praying a sick child would get better soon. Its like the local ice cream stand...it only becomes hazardous to the kid's healtj if you got him there every night.

    March 30, 2010 at 21:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Mark

    Once again we blame everybody else for problems that stem from bad choices by parents! Parents are the key and the ones who get in trouble! Parents are the ones who make the choices. Ronalds doesnt come to your house and feed your kids!. You make the choice. All these groups are another thing that is destroying our fabric of the USA!
    I always see schools blamed businesses blamed or neighbors blamed for what is the parents responsibilities. NO GOVT office or groups go after parents. But again people could eat well if the good foods werent so expensive and the junk food filled with crap was so cheap in price and nutrition! But parents you need to step up to the plate and and realize your not going to blame everyone else anymore and actually take blame for your BAD parenting skills. Its no ones fault but Parents. Come on,,,,,,,, those excuses are no longer accepted. Your a parent now act like one!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    March 30, 2010 at 21:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Christine

    We go to McDonald's by choice, and convenience, and we make good food choices there most of the time - apples, milk, sandwich (ok, sometimes nuggets). It is up to the customers and the parents to decide on food choices, and Ronald McDonald is fine! A waste of time - leave him alone - and don't supersize it.

    March 30, 2010 at 21:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Mr. Shame

    We as Americans should all be ashamed of ourselves. How have we let 'watchdog groups' tell us what is acceptable for us as consumers. I don't eat at Mcd's but you 'protesters' better stay far away from me. Far away!

    March 30, 2010 at 21:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. GNation4

    This is the beginning of the slide down the slippery slope that was predicted when the big battle was about smoking. We collectively decided that the nanny state could intrude into personal choices on behalf of the "public interest". This is not the last choice that will be taken away and for all those that applauded the villification of smokers, welcome to our world. (Disclosure: I am a smoker)

    March 30, 2010 at 21:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. will

    It's about time...I mean doesn't the idea of a clown selling cheeseburgers seem sort of wrong?

    March 30, 2010 at 21:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Jim Bob

    Marketing style used by Stalin & Hizballah: Cover-up your dirty deeds with charity work. Just take a look at all the junk food peddled to kids on T.V.

    March 30, 2010 at 21:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Grant MacDonald

    Christianity is incorporated throughout USA as a tax free entity doing more hard to children with its evil fantasy! Why don't you do something more productive and go after the child molesters!

    If one eats a double quarter pounder next to ones campus are you feeling justified in taking that away. Good thing that you will over-ridden ... make that an extra large frys please.

    You should be ashamed of yourselves for being totally communist. I even saw that in China ... they are going to open 200 new McDonalds. Gee seems that you are more Nazi then communist. Get a life!

    March 30, 2010 at 21:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Jason

    People should not be controlling other people's food choices with boycotts and the like. I consider it an invasion of privacy.

    March 30, 2010 at 21:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Paul

    THIS IS WHAT CHILDREN NEED, NOT PARENTS, BUT AGENCIES AND BUREAUCRATIC DECISION-MAKING. SURELY THIS WILL NOT INCREASE THE CULTURE OF ENTITLEMENT THAT IS WORSE THAN THE OBESITY "EPIDEMIC."

    March 30, 2010 at 21:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. JimmyT

    Give me back that filet o fish
    Give me that fish
    Give me back that filet o fish
    Give me that fish
    What if it were you
    Hanging up on this wall?
    If it were you in that sandwich
    You wouldn't be laughing at all

    March 30, 2010 at 21:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Collin

    To all of you who say "parents should take responsibility": Isn't that what this group of parents is doing? Taking on a negative influence over their kids and trying to get rid of it? If these same folks were trying to get rid of gangs in their neighborhoods, would you say that they shouldn't "waste their time" trying to get rid of the gangs and instead just keep their own kids from joining? Would it be "retarded" to try to get rid of gangs or pushers in one's neighborhood? Isn't it an expression of parental responsibility to attempt to get rid of bad influences in your child's environment? Isn't it is a parent's duty to try improve the social environment in which their children must live?

    March 30, 2010 at 21:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. fattmerris

    There's nothing better to frighten children away from junk food than a clown. My daughter had nightmares of Ronald McDonald when she was two. She never wanted to eat at McDonalds because of him. No Joke. Clowns are scarry.

    March 30, 2010 at 21:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Larry "O"

    IT IS NOT RONALD THAT HOOKED THEM ON JUNK FOOD IT WAS YOU THE PARENT. WE DON'T EAT THERE UNLESS WE ARE ON VACATION. YOU PEOPLE NEED TO GET A LIFE. SPEND TIME ON THE KIDS IN AMERICA THAT ARE HOMELESS AND STARVING THAT WOULD DO MORE GOOD THAN TRYING TO AXE RONALD....L.

    March 30, 2010 at 21:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Peggy

    I'm not a huge fan of McDonalds – the food or the clown. However, it shouldn't be up to a watchdog group to decide whether the clown stays or goes. If Col Sanders and Wendy's Dave were still around would they be next? As far as the food it should be up to the parents to decide what their children should and shouldn't eat – what ever happened to accountability on the part of the parents? What Corporate Accountability International should be going after – big time – are the financial people. The bonus dollars that most of these executives pull down are obscene and should be capped.

    March 30, 2010 at 21:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. wag

    Assumeing Ms. Lapidus has any, Wonder how many McDonalds Hamburgers her children have or are comsing as well?

    March 30, 2010 at 21:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Care giver

    This icon got me interested in giving to The Ronald McDonald House.
    All these do-gooders need to keep their bored noses out of society's life. You do not know what's best for me. Go clean your rooms.

    March 30, 2010 at 21:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Bill

    CAI has got it dead right. I used to work at McOpCo (company-run) McDonalds, and I remember several times hearing organizational managers brag that Ronald et.al. were created strictly to get kids to pull their parents into their restaurants. His appearance was part of a calculated hardcore sales strategy, and not some whimsical burger ambiance. Their sales strategy was to attack the market from the kids' level upward, and eventually institutionalize the McDonald's experience for American families. It worked splendidly. Their food is unhealthy, and they know it. The profit doesn't come from sandwiches, but from fries and soft drink sales.

    March 30, 2010 at 21:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Larry

    Absurd to say that the Ronald McDonald Mascot is responsible for child obesity. I wonder if Ronald is the reason why kids eat at Burger King, Dairy Queen, Red Robin, and 7 million other places out there that serve french fries, greasy burgersand every other unhealty food. If groups like this want to work on the child obesity problem in this country then they can start with the making parents responsible for what their kids eat.

    March 30, 2010 at 21:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Mamma Rita

    Mother/grandmother....OUTRAGED !! My youngest daughter, Cindy, was diagnosed with liver cancer at 21months old. While receiving treatment in Wichita, Ks. we stayed at the Ronald McDonald House for over a year. Ronald McDonald not only is a "champion for kids" with his family-oriented, happy attitude about life, but is also a positive influence for kids who are suffering life-threatening illness by his visits to hospitals. All 3 of my children benefited from their exposure to such a POSITIVE character who made them all smile during confusing times in their lives.
    My daughter lost her battle with cancer, but we have very positive memories of Ronald and his talents with kids. We now take my 4 year old grandson to visit Ronald when he's in town and have had wonderful experiences sharing fun times with him too. Hopefully no one will ever have to experience Ronald visiting critically ill children in hospitals or stay in Ronald McDonald houses while their kids are receiving treatments. I will ALWAYS support Ronald and the charities that he endorses with his "I'm lovin' It" attitude.
    We as parents control what our children eat and see. We have healthy choices at McDonald's for our children and grandchildren to eat. Don't blame anyone else. McDonald's have given me and my family many, many opportunities to have quality family time with our little ones and as a parent/grandparent who only wants "the best" for my little ones I WILL CONTINUE TO ENCOURAGE EVERYONE I KNOW TO SUPPORT RONALD MCDONALD AND ALL THAT HE STANDS FOR !!

    March 30, 2010 at 21:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. bill

    if this accountability group would spend more time going after the government for not being accountable, that would be a good thing.
    oops that would be anti government and they would go to jail

    March 30, 2010 at 21:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. IronMan0737

    This activism is a step in the right direction. Big Business, through mass-advertising, has succeeded in burning mindless and needless habits into three generations of families to the point where things like getting fast food is a mere reflex, and a deadly one at that. You also must realize that increasingly competitive culture among kids is extremely materialistic. Kids are made fun of and disrespected when they don't get the expensive clothes and gear, the peel-away lunch and drink-bag and fast food. In order for there to be a decrease in childhood obesity, it must be taught to and understood by children that consuming fast food is not cool and not respectable. If it takes axing Ronald in the process, so be it. It's not like he's being used in the same capacity as the Burger King, but this concept might lead to the capping of advertising costs spent by entities such as McD.

    March 30, 2010 at 21:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Antriad

    What's the world coming to when a guy can't walk down the street without an 11 year old asking if he can bum a happy meal?

    March 30, 2010 at 21:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Dan

    This is about the dumbest thing I've ever heard. God forbid people take any responsibility for themselves and their kids. Imagine the good that could be done in this world if people actually concentrated their hysteria on legitimate concerns.

    March 30, 2010 at 21:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Jay

    Good idea..

    1) Joe Camel

    2) Ronald McDonald

    3) Santa Claus

    4) Jesus

    5) The Easter Bunny

    Let's get REAL and stop shoving things down kids' throats.

    March 30, 2010 at 21:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. JS

    We should get rid of all FAST FOOD restaurants !!
    IT's CRAP.
    OUr Great great grandparents would be disgusted that we eat this crap.
    YOU call this food.
    Yes we should get rid of all of them.
    The workers can start small farms.
    Who cares about a clown. The food is STILL CRAP, and it will eventually kill you if you keep eating it.

    March 30, 2010 at 21:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. patty

    Mcdonalds food is disgusting and should not be promoted in any way shape or form to kids peiord. Children are obese and this epidemic is just getting worse. Children need all the help they can get to help them to steer away from this disgusting unhealthy food. Put the clown to rest!!

    March 30, 2010 at 22:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Smellie

    Well, I for one think they need to go after that little red-headed tart, Wendy. At least Ronald is adult clown. She's is a child, a freckled-faced demon spawn beguiling our babies with her deep fried, fat-dripping perky preciousness . . . . so you freaks, just LEAVE the CLOWN ALONE.

    March 30, 2010 at 22:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. aayeah

    its not ronald mcdonald driving the kids to mcdonalds...maybe the parents should hold themselves accountable instead of starting nonprofit to blame everybody else

    March 30, 2010 at 22:03 | Report abuse | Reply
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