Pizza, says Congress, is a vegetable. Pepper spray, says Fox News host Megyn Kelly, is a food product. The expanding definition of the word “food” never ceases to amaze me.

In responding to the pizza legislation, the news media demonstrated that it is capable of using a bizarre story to educate. Meanwhile, Kelly demonstrated just how Fox News continues to serve as an embarrassment to journalism.

First, the pizza. In a law on school lunches, Congress declared pizza to be a vegetable. The tomato paste used as sauce on frozen pizzas is apparently nutritious enough to be in the same food group as peas, corn and celery.

The news media pounced on the story. They talked about why the decision was made (real shocker here: it was corporate lobbying) and why it made very little sense. The chemical composition of frozen pizza sauce was mentioned on more than one occasion.

It’s nice to know that when lobbyists exercise their influence to make ridiculous laws, the news media will seize on it. I doubt the same will apply in more complex cases, but at least the idea of corporate influence in politics has been made tangible to anyone who knows what a vegetable is.

Though in some ways, the coverage leaves a number of questions unanswered. For example: does this mean that Pizza Hut can solve America’s obesity problem? Will Gatorade ever become a fruit? Does Herman Cain’s time as the CEO of Godfather Pizza make him Jamie Oliver’s perverse predecessor?

Okay. I’m done now.

Meanwhile, on Fox News, Megyn Kelly made a similar upgrade to pepper spray. In a conversation about the now internet famous ‘Pepper Spraying Cop,’ she explained to Bill O’Reilly that it is “essentially a food product”

An ordinary talk show might have brought on an expert in the field of police work or first amendment law, or even someone involved in the protest or UC Davis police department.

But this is Fox News. This is a network on which hosts often bring other hosts onto their shows to give sweeping opinions on subjects that they typically have second-hand knowledge of.

Kelly’s defense was that she eventually told O’Reilly that pepper spray was abrasive and that she didn’t know whether what the officer in question did was legal. She urged readers to watch the whole clip, in which she said one positive thing about the protestors.

What struck me about Kelly’s statement was that she admitted to knowing next to nothing about a topic she came on The O’Reilly Factor to discuss and that she seemed to know little about pepper spray other than the fact that she carries it.

I understand that Fox News needs to keep up its image as the conservative network, but does it really have to be a laughing stock, as well? If the network would just replace some of its talking heads with a few more authoritative ones, it could go a long way to becoming a more serious news source.

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