Warner Todd Huston
AP misses that Michelle's White House veggies weren't used on TV
By Warner Todd Huston
January 15, 2010

The Associated Press had an extensive story reporting on First Lady Michelle Obama's White House garden on Jan 13. The story included the tidbit that her veggies were the main ingredients during a recent Iron Chef TV show episode. The AP happily reported that the crops "inspired a culinary showdown" on the TV show and reported that the challenge to the chefs was to "whip up five dishes using anything from the garden." But the AP did not report the truth that none of the produce used on the show actually came from the White House garden at all.

The AP reported about the taping of the show and said that the chefs used the White House veggies.

The garden also inspired a culinary showdown on an episode of "Iron Chef America," a television series patterned on the Japanese "Iron Chef." Filmed partly at the White House, the contest paired White House chef Cristeta Comerford and Bobby Flay against another duo of top American chefs, Mario Batali and Emeril Lagasse.

Their challenge? Whip up five dishes using anything from the garden. The chefs harvested everything from fennel and collard greens to purple cauliflower and Japanese eggplant. Flay and Comerford, a Philippine-born naturalized American, won the cook-off.

Unfortunately for the AP, the truth is that even though the TV show filmed the White House garden and showed some of the crops that were picked from it, they did not actually use any of the produce during the cook-off because the taping of the cooking part of the show was held a week after the produce was picked at the White House.

But it wasn't just the AP that mislead folks about where the veggies actually came from. The Iron Chef TV show also somehow forgot to mention that all the produce used on the show was freshly purchased for the show and did not actually come from the White House garden.

It was up to Lynn Sweet to correct the record:

    The White House segment was taped in late October. The cook-off actually took place the following week, in what Iron Chef calls its "Kitchen Stadium" in New York City.

    So clearly the stuff that was picked that October day at the White House never had a chance of making it on the show because the produce would not be fresh.

Sweet confirmed with Food Network representatives that the veggies were "locally sourced" to their New York studios where the cook-off was filmed.

Now, is there anything wrong with a White House garden or that the contents thereof inspired a cook-off? Not at all, but what is wrong with reporting the truth that veggies "inspired" doesn't mean veggies "used." Once again the AP misleads with its coverage, produces sloppy work, and does not fact check. Not coincidentally, in this incident this slight of the facts makes Michelle's garden seem like more than it is.

So what's wrong with reporting the truth, AP?

© Warner Todd Huston


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Warner Todd Huston

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