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On ‘Today,’ Mayor Defends Soda Ban (and Donut Day)

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By Ann Tyller | August 27, 2012 5:58 pm

Forget Bloomberg vs. soda. On Friday morning, which Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg proclaimed NYC Donut Day, it was Bloomberg vs. Lauer.

The “Today” show’s genial anchor, Matt Lauer, welcomed Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg onto the program on Friday with a sobering figure: 83 percent of voters in an online NBC poll concluded that the mayor’s proposed ban on large sodas would not help reduce obesity.

Mr. Bloomberg, sitting on a couch with a super-sized 7-Eleven “Double Gulp” cup perched in front of him, said he was not concerned by the skepticism.

“Where did I hear this before?” the mayor said, recalling the outcry after he banned cigarette use in the city’s restaurants. “Wasn’t it smoking that wasn’t going to work? Today it’s one of the best things we’ve ever done.”

“It just takes time for people to understand,” the mayor added.

Mr. Bloomberg had stopped by the show to promote his anti-soda plan, part of a mayoral media blitz that included interviews on all three major network newscasts on Thursday night.

But Mr. Lauer pressed the mayor repeatedly on the perceived benefits of the proposal, asking whether the plan represented an overreach by the government into people’s personal decisions.

“We’re not banning you from getting the stuff,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “It’s just if you want 32 ounces, the restaurant has to serve it in two glasses. That’s not exactly taking away your freedoms. It’s not something that the founding fathers fought for.”

At one point, Mr. Lauer asked the mayor why he was focusing on soda as New York struggled with problems in its schools and economy.

“Education’s better, crime’s down, created more jobs than ever before in our city,” Mr. Bloomberg said, rattling off his usual talking points about his administration’s accomplishments. “What we have done is we’ve improved life expectancy.”

Finally, Mr. Lauer pointed out that the Bloomberg administration issued a proclamation on Friday in support of National Donut Day. The proclamation has been cited as evidence of hypocrisy by critics of the mayor’s soda proposal.

“It sounds ridiculous,” Mr. Lauer said.

“C’mon, it doesn’t sound ridiculous,” Mr. Bloomberg replied.

“One doughnut’s not going to hurt you. In moderation, most things are O.K.”

The mayor went on to describe the origins of National Donut Day, which began in the 1930s as a way to honor women in World War I who served doughnuts to soldiers on behalf of the Salvation Army. (The mayor referred to the women by their nickname from the time, “Doughnut Lassies.”)

And with that, Mr. Lauer concluded the interview. “Happy National Donut Day,” he told the mayor.

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