More than 600 doctors and health professionals have sent a message to McDonald's in full-page newspaper ads: It's time to dump Ronald McDonald, the fast food chain's mascot for 48 years. The anti-Ronald campaign is part of a push to get McDonald's to stop marketing its high-calorie food to kids. McDonald's CEO Jim Skinner is fighting back: Ronald "is an ambassador for good," and he "isn't going anywhere." Customers irked by the ads, says Skinner, have actually flooded his office with votes of support for the clown. Is Ronald's job safe?
Ronald is the Joe Camel of fast food: McDonald's paints the attack on its "burger-pushing mascot" as an assault on freedom, says David Freeman at CBS News. But the campaign sure looks like a genuine effort to help kids. Childhood obesity has more than tripled during Ronald's tenure, and one in three kids is now fat or obese. And a 2010 study found that "branding food products with cartoon characters clearly influences young children's taste preferences, easily luring them to eat junk food."
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Don't scapegoat the clown: "I would like to meet the family who actually finds itself compelled to drive to Mickey D’s because of... Ronald McDonald," says Jennifer LaRue Huget in The Washington Post. I mean, even my "dopey kids" have "figured out that you don't do things just because some clown suggests you do." Besides, a McDonald's burger and fries isn't the worst meal in the world for a kid, so long as parents don't foolishly make it "a mainstay of the family diet."
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Anti-obesity activists should want more clowns: Ronald actually "tends to freak a lot of kids out," says Brad Tuttle at TIME. Kids demand visits to the Golden Arches "for the toys, and the French fries," and canning the clown won't change that. Heck, if I wanted to sour kids on fast food, I'd encourage McDonald's to "put a clown right at the door, ready to jump out and stick that creepy face full of makeup in front of unsuspecting children with visions of Happy Meals in their heads."
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