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 (1,361 Responses)
  1. Michele

    The iconic Ronald McDonald may be an offensive advertising tool, but the good that McDonald's does with their Ronald McDonald houses far outweighs offensiveness. If one doesn't want one's child to eat this type of food, then don't go there. But leave this do-gooder around!

    March 31, 2010 at 14:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Neil Smith

    This is stupid! Have you seen the Burger King commercials? A goofy looking king running around like he's out of his mind, and now they've got one of him breaking into McDonald's stealing recipes...There are more important things than Ronald McDonald!

    March 31, 2010 at 15:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. hodge

    Lincoln Brigham – burgers may be protein, but the way they are prepared could be healthier. Then you've got the issue of beef being full of hormones and other crap. However, I really don't think Ronald McDonald is the main reason kids want to eat there.

    As for other fast food icons, yes, get rid of the Burger King! That is the creepiest thing I've ever seen!

    March 31, 2010 at 15:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Elaine

    Do they want Ronald McDonald houses to close too?

    March 31, 2010 at 15:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Mattski in FL

    These groups can take a hike as far as I'm concerned. Who died and left them in charge? Here's a but of advice. Butt out.

    March 31, 2010 at 15:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. zen

    "Could it not serve the same children without the cross promotion of burgers and fries which are affecting kids' health?”

    No. It could not. Why not? Because it is McDonald's, and no matter what they do where, when you hear the word McDonald's (whether Ronald's name is attached to it or not) you automatically think of a Big Mac or a Quarter Pounder or something like that. Whether they remove the clown or not, it will always be that way. Besides, how can you remove one of McDonald's cartoon characters without removing them all? This whole thing is rediculous. You can't blame a cartoon clown, who provides more charitable contributions to children than almost any real person, for kids eating poorly in America. It's not Ronald's job to teach your kids how to eat healthy, it's yours. Because no matter how cool someone thinks that goofy looking clown is, the only time a cartoon character is really going to influence your decision is when your parents should be more than capable of saying 'no'.

    March 31, 2010 at 15:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Christina

    Wow. These people could be doing better things with their time. I agree completely with everyone here. No one makes the parents take their children to McDonald's. What this group should do is go after McDonald's to get them to make their food healthier. Anyone see this article that's been circulating on the net?


    Don't know if it's true or not, but it's 'food for thought'. 😉

    March 31, 2010 at 15:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. James

    These people really need to get a life! Sure..let's blame the Marketing Icon for child obesity...not the parents of these morbidly obese children. Where are the parents in all of this? Ultimately they are the blame for they are the one's supplying the food to their kids...this is yet...just another example of parents passing the buck in the blame game. Fess up!

    March 31, 2010 at 15:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Queen Lattice

    "making balanced food choices... that's what Ronald McDonald is all about"

    Who'rya tryin' to kid?

    March 31, 2010 at 15:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. captain_germany

    to much of anything is good for nothing.

    print that on your currency

    March 31, 2010 at 15:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Frined of joe Camel

    It is horrible what they did to my friend Joe and now they are profiling Ronald! What is America coming to? I agree , I bet these idiots would have not problem staying is a Ronald McDonald house.... Horrible Horrible.... Stay Free Ronald– we need you to help shove fast food in the mouth's of the fatso's that bitch cause you made them fat , when they are shoving 4 quarter pounders in the hole below their nose.... it's not ronalds fault you drug your fat ass in there and got the shake and large value meal and topped it off with a apple pie,, instead of trying to be sensible........ By the way if your fat ass would walk to Mcdonald's maybe that would help!.... How about this lardo,,, try going to the gym

    March 31, 2010 at 15:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Ian Bardecki

    While we're at it.....we should also get rid of Snap, Crackle and Pop, Count Chocula, Captain Crunch, The King (Burger King), the Trix Rabbit, etc....

    The bottom line is, parents need to be responsible for their own kids. There's nothing wrong with a Big Mac now and again – just not every freaking day! Parents also need to teach their kids about healthy eating and excercise as well.

    It just seems to me that these so called "watchdog groups" have nothing better to do with their time, than tell others how they should live their lives.

    Let me live my life and I'll let you live yours.

    March 31, 2010 at 15:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Clarissa

    "From the folks who killed Joe Camel...Presenting: The Death Of Ronald McDonald!!!!!!"
    These crazies are out just to start pointing fingers at businesses they think they can put a dent in. Are their lives so boring that they have to take down a beloved fast food icon...he's a clown for crying out loud! And I'm sure children eating fast foods has NOTHING to do with the parents driving them there and letting them order whatever they want. These people are the neighbors everyone has, the neighbors that complain at you when your child rides their bike over their watering hose for a split second or come knocking when you left your porch light on all night and it was "beaming through the window and keeping us up ALL night!!!" They are just trying to stir things up, well know this, its not because of the clown, children are getting fat because their parents dont know how to feed their children properly. Parents: if your children eat fast food, thats fine, nothing wrong with that-but make sure they are getting off the video games and onto a bike every now and then and any respectable parent knows that fast food is NOT acceptable the majority of the week, let them have it once or twice and for the other days get YOUR lazy butt into the kitchen and cook something good for them.

    March 31, 2010 at 15:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. ryan s

    I'm with Cherie T, I grew up eating McDonalds every friday with my mom and grandparents. I was active in sports (junior Olympian) and am a healthy, fit adult that still eats there once in a great while when convenience dictates. Ronald is not like Joe Camel. Joe was created explicitly to promote smoking to kids, Ronald is one of many corporate icons developed to promote the fast food to an entire family. This advocacy group will surely fail in this attempt.

    March 31, 2010 at 15:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. SEF

    McDonalds has the Grimace character and he's fat, so at least they are telling it like it is. This group must have a better way to spend their money.

    March 31, 2010 at 16:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Jones

    you keep telling yourself those kids eat mcdonalds b/c of a clown.

    blamestorming.......i want to do some blamestorming & today i blame you ronald. being all happy like that, what are you thinking.


    March 31, 2010 at 16:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Carl

    Perhaps we the people should launch a class-action lawsuit against stopcorporateabuse.org for infringing upon our freedom to be entertained by a clown.

    We need fewer of these progressive organizations who spend their time looking for new ways to implement government control over every aspect of our lives, and more organizations who will start cutting back the stranglehold government puts on our daily freedom.

    March 31, 2010 at 16:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Jon

    If you want to make a change, don't go after the mascot, go after the food. You get McDonald's (and all fast food places) to remove all children's menus and toys and the problem is solved.

    Sorry kids, they have no menu for you. You have to be 18 or older to eat the small fries.

    Quit wasting everyone's time and let people be. So people can use their free speech and protest a soldier's funeral with vulgar signs and get paid for it, but we don't have the freedom to EAT! Amsterdam here I come.

    March 31, 2010 at 16:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Paul

    These people need to find something meaningful to do with their lives! They would not tolerate government telling them how to raise their children and I certainly don't appreciate them helping me raise mine! He's a clown for god sakes!

    March 31, 2010 at 16:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Carmen

    Be real. Who really buys the food kids eat, parents. I listen to my 6 yo desires and then we find a healthy choice or we apply the "sometimes" method. Sometimes we can eat at McDonalds but, we have to chose milk not soda and sometimes we can have fries but most of the time we will have the apple dippers with out the dip and chicken nuggets. Helping your child make healthy choices is what is key not a 6 ft tall clown. He is not raising my child I am.

    March 31, 2010 at 16:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Kgort

    These people are pathetic! You want to stop kids from eating crappy food, stop talking them there all the time! It's time for the parents to step up and feed their kids healthier foods and stop blaming a "Mascot" for why their kids is overweight. Watch Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution on Friday Nights on NBC. It's a real eye opener! We as adults make the decisions as to what kids eat. It starts with us, not Ronald McDonald!

    March 31, 2010 at 16:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Mike

    These people are nut bag lunatics.. Go put your own disfunctional families in plastic baggies.. leave mine alone..I dont want your watch dogs your Obama care or anything else designed to "protect me". If you want "broiled burgers" or healty food ...use your own god given intelect or lack there of to decide...

    March 31, 2010 at 16:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. justin

    "Ronald McDonald has hooked kids on unhealthy foods". Are you serious? Is he running around on school playgrounds handing out free Big Macs to get kids addicted to McDonald's food? Corporate Accountability International should think about focusing some attention on the real problem here - parents. I really wonder if the progressive elites (just ask them, they'll tell you they are) have any concept of what responsibility and accountability are.

    March 31, 2010 at 16:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Gary

    The genie was let outta the bottle many years ago. Let's go after all the advertisements which target or address children. The ad industry thrives by making children, and adults, unhappy unless they have what is being pushed.

    March 31, 2010 at 16:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Jason

    Really your kids are fat because a clown told them to eat a burger? Take some responsibility for the health of your children.

    March 31, 2010 at 16:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Kevin

    Attack of the Health Nazis:
    First they went after Joe Camel, and I said nothing because Ididn't smoke Camels...
    Then they went after Ronald McDonald and I said nothing because I didn't eat fast food...
    Then they went after Count Chocula and I said nothing because I didn't eat kids cereal...
    Then they went after the Budweiser Clydesdales and I said nothing because I didn't drink cheap beer...
    Then they went after "home cooking" and there was no one left to speak up.....

    March 31, 2010 at 16:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Jordan

    The parents just need to show a little responsibility. They are the ones that are at fault for letting their kids eat too much fast food, not Ronald McDonald. Every company has a gimmick or a spokesperson. I see no issue with Ronald McDonald. Parents just need to step up and take the responsibility.

    March 31, 2010 at 17:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. CGrs

    This is ridiculous! If kids are overweight its because parents allow them to be.... they can't get in the car & go get fast food for themselves! Ronald McDonald was alive and well when I was a kid, and I was thin. We did eat fast food IN MODERATION!! Put the blame where it belongs: on the parents! BTW, my 2 daughters (20 & 15 yrs of age) are healthy & fit, & have never been overweight, so it CAN be done!!

    March 31, 2010 at 17:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. donaldmcdonald

    1. Get rid of toys in Happy Meals. I wanted to go there as a kid to get a toy, not because of Ronald.

    2. Kid: "I want to go see Ronald McDonald. Parent: "No, the food is bad for you."

    It's that simple.

    March 31, 2010 at 17:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. liveoc

    This is typical, there are plenty of hate groups against them.

    Bahahaha, i read this article on how to wean your kids off of McDonalld's–you have to read it!


    March 31, 2010 at 17:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Hello Parents?!

    Seriously! What is this country coming to – it's NEVER the parents fault so blame the clown! Good grief. Parents: Grow a spine and tell your fat kid NO and make him get some exercise. Leave Ronald alone.

    March 31, 2010 at 17:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Lorie

    I am glad someone is trying to put an end to this horrible clown. I live in Tacoma WA and the last time I drove by McD's, Ronald was on the corner, armed and dangerous. He forced his way into my car and made me go through the drive through and buy 4 big macs. To add more tragedy to the event, he made me supersize the meals. I wasn't allowed to buy the apple slices, yogurt, salads, or grilled chicken sandwich. It was awful.

    March 31, 2010 at 17:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Chris

    "Ronald deserves a break and so do we.” Exactly. Ms. Lapidus, please take a break and give it a rest.

    March 31, 2010 at 17:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Sly

    Parents need to accept responsibility for their kids- it's not like Ronald McNasty runs up to the door with a bucket of McNuggets and a gun, threatening to kill the kids unless they eat the whole thing. It's not up to McDonalds to show sad, angry clowns in a crash effort to keep kids away- parents take that up on their own. Lazy parents will let the clown tell their kids what to eat and won't care one bit how fat they get.

    I would like to get rid of him, however, solely because he's annoying.

    March 31, 2010 at 18:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. a2rjr

    Why don't you bozos leave all of us alone. A corporate mascot is non of your business. You take our money to line your pockets before you ever redistribute it (as you call it). You have no right to tell anyone what to do so go eat you bran and tofu and shut the hell up.

    March 31, 2010 at 18:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. HLC III

    It is not up to some group to determine what McDonalds uses as advertising. It is the parents responsibility. My family has used the R. McDonald house to stay when they had a sick child that was hospitalized for a while. To compare him to joe Camel is ludicrous. Get a life!!!!!!!!!!!

    March 31, 2010 at 18:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Christine Levenhagen

    It's time to teach personal responsibility and responsible parenting, instead of blaming clowns for your fat kid's problems. It's not his fault you drive through there 3 times a week, is it?

    March 31, 2010 at 18:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Damon

    The difference between Joe Camel and Ronald McDonald is that Joe Camel has been proven to cause cancer in second hand smoke which in turn causes death.

    Although fast food can cause obesity which can lead to death, second hand eating does not exist, therefore you cannot compare the two.

    March 31, 2010 at 18:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Janie

    Bottom line is this.... parents don't know how to tell their children NO. Just another way to shut them up. Just give them everything they want so they'll love you. Bull. All they'll do is walk all over you again and again. When my kids were told NO they knew it meant NO and if they asked again, the next thing they asked for was also a NO. I see how the kids of today are and oh boy, are we in trouble when they're in charge of the country, if there's anything left till then. These 'do good' groups need to back off and shut up for once and for all. Just because they don't like something doesn't mean the rest of us aren't supposed to like it. Don't we all have the right to our own opinion? Apparently not.

    March 31, 2010 at 19:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. jess_sayin

    Watch any kids TV channel and you will get bombarded by commercials for various kinds of junk food.

    March 31, 2010 at 19:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Doug

    Everyone can complain, but their efforts worked. Thousands of people on this website have read the article and thought about the fact that "good parents" shouldn't let their kids eat at McDonalds.

    You can complain that this is a stupid organization, but by doing so you've proven their effectiveness. They never really cared about Ronald McDonald – their goal is to get the word out on good health.

    For people so quick to argue that everyone has free will, you've all been duped by a classic advertising and PR trick.

    March 31, 2010 at 19:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Nikki

    If people feel their lives will be less complete without this corporation's clown peddling terrible, dangerous food to children, so be it. We cannot expect a clown to be in touch with reality.

    March 31, 2010 at 19:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. hal9thou

    Smarmy idiots..... I think they need a cheeseburger and an enema.

    March 31, 2010 at 19:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. GGma

    I am very pleased that Mc Donald's are working on presenting a much healthier fast food: totally impressed.
    Now, it's up to the parents to teach their children what is healthy and what is not: we do have that choice, now......at Ronald's.

    March 31, 2010 at 19:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Dirk

    I'm sure once it's determined that eating fast food causes cancer Ronalds days will be numbered. Until then I doubt Ronald will have the same fat as Joe.

    March 31, 2010 at 19:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Nobody

    It's not Ronald Mcdonalds job to make the food healthy. McDonalds has zero responsibility to serve healthy food. They could serve vats of lard with a straw sticking out of it.
    People choose to go there. If you don't like it don't go. Its no different then when you're at the grocery store.
    I can't even believe I'm reading this. Get rid of Ronald Mcdonald?! What kind of supertool is able to sleep at night knowing this is their job?

    March 31, 2010 at 19:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. calico

    Finally - someone willing to say that kids should not be eating McDonald's!!!! Thank you!

    Did you know the generation being born now is estimated to be the first generation in US history to have SHORTER average lifespans, due to diet and lifestyle choices? There are more calories in a McDonald's "meal" than some people should be eating all day. Fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium are all way too high. Fiber and nutrition in these over-processed poor example of "food" is too low. And with so much sugar in fast-food meals, it's no wonder we have record rates of Type 2 Diabetes.

    If it should be the parents' choice, why did we get rid of Joe Camel? Because we know we don't need kids wanting something that will hurt them.

    The Happy Meal should be called the Malnutrition Junky Meal, cause that is really what kids are getting.

    March 31, 2010 at 20:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Jim W

    Just another sad attempt to draw attention, and it worked.


    Come on.

    March 31, 2010 at 20:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Wayne Messer

    This is a non issue. You're telling me that parents can't decide what their kids eat. This is typical now that you blame everyone but, the guilty.

    A clown, an athlete, a freakin movie actor does not control your kids.

    If they do then you are NOT A PARENT!!!! Now take charge of YOUR family and stop blaming everyone else.

    March 31, 2010 at 20:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. b

    When my son was sick with cancer, Ronald McDonald and the Ronald McDonal House brought happiness to him and my family. It helped us get through some pretty rough times. Please don't take that away from these children.

    March 31, 2010 at 20:19 | Report abuse | Reply
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