When two separate officials at the Governors Highway Safety Association made statements linking First Lady Michelle Obama's nutrition and exercise program to an uptick in pedestrian deaths, we found ourselves agreeing with Megan McArdle's assessment that a "mumbling, red-faced, excruciatingly apologetic retraction" would soon follow. We were right--up to a point.
GHSA executive director Barbara Harsha told The Atlantic's Derek Thompson she was "misquoted" in a Washington Examiner article on pedestrian deaths and that the GHSA "in no way oppose Ms. Obama's program." Additionally, GHSA spokesman Jonathan Adkins, who told 630 WMAL that the national emphasis on physical fitness "increases our exposure to risk" emailed McArdle with an explanation of what he really meant to say.
I am the spokesman for the Governors Highway Safety Association. In the interview you reference, I did not blame Mrs. Obama for the small uptick in pedestrian deaths. I noted that in our study we note that programs such as Mrs. Obama's may be increasing the number and frequency of pedestrians and thus exposing them to more risk. We support these programs but want to make sure that pedestrians are behaving safely-not using iphones, texting, crossing in dangerous places, etc. It's ludicrous to suggest that the non-partisan, nonprofit Governors Highway Safety Association is blaming Mrs. Obama. We encourage walking/jogging, etc. We just want to make sure that this doesn't lead to more needless deaths.
None of which, it should be noted, answers the question of whether the GHSA legitimately believes the First Lady's program is causing road deaths. Instead, they seem more concerned about how the press allegedly misconstrued their earlier remarks. Which is probably going to keep happening as long as the organization's press shop keeps sending out statements containing the phrase "programs such as Mrs. Obama's may be increasing the number and frequency of pedestrians and thus exposing them to more risk" while denying such a thing was ever said.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.