The George S. McGovern Page

McGovern, George Stanley bio / US Congress

George Stanley McGovern was a Trustee of the American Health Foundation between March 1985 and March 1987.

McGovern was Director of the Food for Peace Council before he ran for the Senate in 1962. President Kennedy appointed Florence Mahoney to the Council in 1961; she held a reception to help McGovern's candidacy. Other members of the Council included her old friends Clark Clifford, Drew Pearson, and Mary Lasker. "Dr. Joseph T. English, a former Peace Corps psychiatrist newly appointed to work on the Johnson anti-poverty program in the mid-1960s, had a memorable introduction to Mahoney's close ties with the White House. Confronted with the task of getting appropriations from Congress for a national network of health centers, he asked a friend, 'How do you raise money for health care?' 'It's very simple,' she responded, 'there's a woman in Washington named Florence Mahoney who's raised funds with Mary Lasker for all the federal health programs. The way you raise money is talk to Florence Mahoney.' English promptly called her up and said he would like to accept a previously proffered invitation to dinner... English 'appeared at her table,' whose guests included Senator Walter 'Fritz' Mondale and George McGovern, HEW Secretary John Gardner, and presidential domestic counsel Harry McPherson... I started talking and that began a friendship with John Gardner that ended bureaucratic squabbling between HEW and OEO and began unprecedented cooperation between them. We soon had $100 million for neighborhood health centers. It started around Florence's dinner table." And later, when continued appropriations were held up, Mahoney phoned Lady Bird Johnson, who proceeded to make the poverty program one of the five most important of Johnson's administration. (From: Noble Conspirator, Florence S. Mahoney and the Rise of the National Institutes of Health. By Judith Robinson. The Francis Press 2001.)

The Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs

From Part 3: Science by Committee In: Nutrition. The soft science of dietary fat. By Gary Taubes. Science 2001 Mar 30;291(5513):2536-2545.

"Like the flourishing American affinity for alternative medicine, an antifat movement evolved independently of science in the 1960s. It was fed by distrust of the establishment--in this case, both the medical establishment and the food industry--and by counterculture attacks on excessive consumption, whether manifested in gas-guzzling cars or the classic American cuisine of bacon and eggs and marbled steaks. And while the data on fat and health remained ambiguous and the scientific community polarized, the deadlock was broken not by any new science, but by politicians. It was Senator George McGovern's bipartisan, nonlegislative Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs--and, to be precise, a handful of McGovern's staff members--that almost single-handedly changed nutritional policy in this country and initiated the process of turning the dietary fat hypothesis into dogma." [Actually, it was establishment dogma from the very beginning, which was falsely marketed to the public as "countercultural." And the Lasker Lobby that controlled the establishment suppressed research on infection for 30 years. See "How the Public was Brainwashed About Heart Disease." -cast]

"McGovern's committee was founded in 1968 with a mandate to eradicate malnutrition in America, and it instituted a series of landmark federal food assistance programs. As the malnutrition work began to peter out in the mid-1970s, however, the committee didn't disband. Rather, its general counsel, Marshall Matz, and staff director, Alan Stone, both young lawyers, decided that the committee would address 'overnutrition,' the dietary excesses of Americans. It was a 'casual endeavor,' says Matz. 'We really were totally na´ve, a bunch of kids, who just thought, 'Hell, we should say something on this subject before we go out of business.' ' McGovern and his fellow senators--all middle-aged men worried about their girth and their health--signed on; McGovern and his wife had both gone through diet-guru Nathan Pritikin's very low fat diet and exercise program. McGovern quit the program early, but Pritikin remained a major influence on his thinking.

"McGovern's committee listened to 2 days of testimony on diet and disease in July 1976. Then resident wordsmith Nick Mottern, a former labor reporter for The Providence Journal, was assigned the task of researching and writing the first 'Dietary Goals for the United States.' Mottern, who had no scientific background and no experience writing about science, nutrition, or health, believed his Dietary Goals would launch a 'revolution in diet and agriculture in this country.' He avoided the scientific and medical controversy by relying almost exclusively on Harvard School of Public Health nutritionist Mark Hegsted for input on dietary fat. Hegsted had studied fat and cholesterol metabolism in the early 1960s, and he believed unconditionally in the benefits of restricting fat intake, although he says he was aware that his was an extreme opinion. With Hegsted as his muse, Mottern saw dietary fat as the nutritional equivalent of cigarettes, and the food industry as akin to the tobacco industry in its willingness to suppress scientific truth in the interests of profits. To Mottern, those scientists who spoke out against fat were those willing to take on the industry. 'It took a certain amount of guts,' he says, 'to speak about this because of the financial interests involved.'

"Mottern's report suggested that Americans cut their total fat intake to 30% of the calories they consume and saturated fat intake to 10%, in accord with AHA recommendations for men at high risk of heart disease. The report acknowledged the existence of controversy but insisted Americans had nothing to lose by following its advice. 'The question to be asked is not why should we change our diet but why not?' wrote Hegsted in the introduction. 'There are [no risks] that can be identified and important benefits can be expected.' This was an optimistic but still debatable position, and when Dietary Goals was released in January 1977, 'all hell broke loose,' recalls Hegsted. 'Practically nobody was in favor of the McGovern recommendations. Damn few people.'

"McGovern responded with three follow-up hearings, which aptly foreshadowed the next 7 years of controversy. Among those testifying, for instance, was NHLBI director Robert Levy, who explained that no one knew if eating less fat or lowering blood cholesterol levels would prevent heart attacks, which was why NHLBI was spending $300 million to study the question. Levy's position was awkward, he recalls, because 'the good senators came out with the guidelines and then called us in to get advice.' He was joined by prominent scientists, including Ahrens, who testified that advising Americans to eat less fat on the strength of such marginal evidence was equivalent to conducting a nutritional experiment with the American public as subjects. Even the American Medical Association protested, suggesting that the diet proposed by the guidelines raised the 'potential for harmful effects.' But as these scientists testified, so did representatives from the dairy, egg, and cattle industries, who also vigorously opposed the guidelines for obvious reasons. This juxtaposition served to taint the scientific criticisms: Any scientists arguing against the committee's guidelines appeared to be either hopelessly behind the paradigm, which was Hegsted's view, or industry apologists, which was Mottern's, if not both.

"Although the committee published a revised edition of the Dietary Goals later in the year, the thrust of the recommendations remained unchanged. It did give in to industry pressure by softening the suggestion that Americans eat less meat. Mottern says he considered even that a 'disservice to the public,' refused to do the revisions, and quit the committee. (Mottern became a vegetarian while writing the Dietary Goals and now runs a food co-op in Peekskill, New York.)

"The guidelines might have then died a quiet death when McGovern's committee came to an end in late 1977 if two federal agencies had not felt it imperative to respond. Although they took contradictory points of view, one message--with media assistance--won out.

"The first was the USDA, where consumer-activist Carol Tucker Foreman had recently been appointed an assistant secretary. Foreman believed it was incumbent on USDA to turn McGovern's recommendations into official policy, and, like Mottern, she was not deterred by the existence of scientific controversy. 'Tell us what you know and tell us it's not the final answer,' she would tell scientists. 'I have to eat and feed my children three times a day, and I want you to tell me what your best sense of the data is right now.'

"Of course, given the controversy, the 'best sense of the data' would depend on which scientists were asked. The Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), which decides the Recommended Dietary Allowances, would have been a natural choice, but NAS president Philip Handler, an expert on metabolism, had told Foreman that Mottern's Dietary Goals were 'nonsense.' Foreman then turned to McGovern's staffers for advice and they recommended she hire Hegsted, which she did. Hegsted, in turn, relied on a state-of-the-science report published by an expert but very divergent committee of the American Society for Clinical Nutrition. 'They were nowhere near unanimous on anything,' says Hegsted, 'but the majority supported something like the McGovern committee report.'

"The resulting document became the first edition of 'Using the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.' Although it acknowledged the existence of controversy and suggested that a single dietary recommendation might not suit an entire diverse population, the advice to avoid fat and saturated fat was, indeed, virtually identical to McGovern's Dietary Goals.

"Three months later, the NAS Food and Nutrition Board released its own guidelines: 'Toward Healthful Diets.' The board, consisting of a dozen nutrition experts, concluded that the only reliable advice for healthy Americans was to watch their weight; everything else, dietary fat included, would take care of itself. The advice was not taken kindly, however, at least not by the media. The first reports--'rather incredulously,' said Handler at the time--criticized the NAS advice for conflicting with the USDA's and McGovern's and thus somehow being irresponsible. Follow-up reports suggested that the board members, in the words of Jane Brody, who covered the story for The New York Times, were 'all in the pocket of the industries being hurt.' To be precise, the board chair and one of its members consulted for food industries, and funding for the board itself came from industry donations. These industry connections were leaked to the press from the USDA.

"Hegsted now defends the NAS board, although he didn't at the time, and calls this kind of conflict of interest 'a hell of an issue.' 'Everybody used to complain that industry didn't do anything on nutrition,' he told Science, 'yet anybody who got involved was blackballed because their positions were presumably influenced by the industry.' (In 1981, Hegsted returned to Harvard, where his research was funded by Frito-Lay.) The press had mixed feelings, claiming that the connections 'soiled' the academy's reputation 'for tendering careful scientific advice' (The Washington Post), demonstrated that the board's 'objectivity and aptitude are in doubt' (The New York Times), or represented in the board's guidelines a 'blow against the food faddists who hold the public in thrall' (Science). In any case, the NAS board had been publicly discredited. Hegsted's Dietary Guidelines for Americans became the official U.S. policy on dietary fat: Eat less fat. Live longer.

Part 3: Science By Committee, Taubes / National Association of Science Writers

Stenographic Transcript of Hearings Before the Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs of the US Senate; Volume II, Diet Related to Killer Diseases, July 28, 1976. Sen. George McGovern was the Chairman, and witnesses included Dr. Gio Gori of the National Cancer Institute, and Dr. Ernst L. Wynder of the American Health Foundation.

Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs, 1976 / UCSF (pdf, 99 pp)
McGovern Opening Statement, July 28, 1976 / UCSF (pdf, 1 p)

"The connection between diet and health in the United States is under scrutiny as never before both by government and private groups... A recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association by Dr. Lester Breslow of the Center for Health Science, University of California School of Public Health, reflects an important trend in the issue. He calls for a 'positive strategy for the nation's health'... Last month the National Cancer Institute presented Senator George McGovern's Nutrition Subcommittee five 'interim principles' for reducing cancer risk through changes in eating and drinking habits..." Breslow was on the Board of Scientific Consultants of the AHF circa 1971, and NCI Director Arthur Upton became a Trustee of the AHF between 1984 and 1986. (Growing Attention to Diet-Cancer Link Spurs New Look At Nutrition Policy," DECA Memorandum [Division of Environmental and Consumer Affairs of Hill & Knowlton], Nov. 27, 1979).

DECA Memorandum, 1979 / UCSF (pdf, 5 pp)

"In 1976, President Gerald Ford named McGovern a United Nations delegate to the General Assembly, and, in 1978, President Jimmy Carter named him a United Nations delegate for the Special Session on Disarmament... he served as president of the Middle East Policy Council from 1991 to 1998, when President Clinton appointed him ambassador to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization in Rome. In 2001 he was appointed the first United Nations global ambassador on hunger." (George McGovern, Son of Wesleyan, Citizen of the World. Dakota Wesleyan University.)

George McGovern bio / Dakota Wesleyan University

McGovern's editorials feigning opposition to health fascism are merely an example of how Lasker Syndicate stooges and their media accomplices frame the issue to their benefit (Whose Life Is It? By George McGovern. The New York Times 1997 Aug. 14; and: The Wrong Smoke Screen, by George McGovern and Norman E. Brinker. The Washington Times 1998 March 31). The health fascists are criminals, not nannies. They are guilty of massive and systematic conspiracy, fraud, and racketeering, and anyone who portrays them as a mere annoyance is whitewashing their crimes.

Whose Life Is It? 1997 / New York City CLASH
The Wrong Smoke Screen, 1998 /

<= Back to The Lasker Syndicate
<= Back to AHF Trustees

cast 04-09-06