This is a partial transcript from Your World with Neil Cavuto, June 18, 2003, that was edited for clarity. Click here for complete access to all of Neil Cavuto's CEO interviews.
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NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Fast-food lawsuits (search). You’ve heard all about them. Now hear what my next guest wants to do with them. Throw them all out, says Republican Congressman Ric Keller of Florida. He’s says this ridiculous trend of lawsuit lotto needs to stop now, and he’s taking action to do just that.
But John Banzhaf says not if he can help it. John, of course, a professor at the Georgetown University Law School in Washington. He has different ideas.
Gentlemen, welcome to both of you.
Congressman, to you first. You said enough is enough?
REP. RIC KELLER, R-FLA.: Absolutely. The gist of this legislation is that there should be common sense in the food court, not blaming other people in a legal court, whenever there’s an excessive consumption of fast-food.
These suits by the trial lawyers aren’t going to make a single person any skinnier. They’re only going to make the attorneys’ bank accounts fatter. And I think most people have enough common sense to realize, if you eat an unlimited amount of cheeseburgers and milk shakes and super-size fries and chocolate sundaes, it may lead to obesity.
CAVUTO: All right.
PROF. JOHN BANZHAF, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: Neil, I’m glad Fox is fair and balanced because somebody should point out to his constituents that he introduced a bill which managed to be both overbroad and full of loopholes. I submitted testimony saying it is unconstitutional.
He’s now completely revised the bill. He has an entirely new one we’re going to be looking at tomorrow morning, and I don’t think he’s aware that we’ve won three of the seven lawsuits. We’re about to win two more. He says they’re crazy.
Congressman, could you tell us why we should have lost the three we won? Are you aware of the three that we won?
KELLER: I can say flat-out, unmitigated you have never, ever had a successful jury verdict or judgment entered based on the over-consumption of fast-food. That is a blatant misstatement.
BANZHAF: I asked you whether or not you know about the three fat lawsuits which we won, including the one where McDonald’s paid $12.5 million. Now if you know anything about the topic...
CAVUTO: Wasn’t that a case, John -- wasn’t that a case where they wanted more info. You didn’t win outright. They just wanted more info, right?
KELLER: Wait, Neil. Let me comment. This is what this is.
BANZHAF: We won $12.5 million. What do you want from us?
KELLER: That’s just a flat-out lie. What that was a suit by vegetarians saying you didn’t tell us that there was beef fat in the French fries. It had no proof and had nothing to do with obesity, and so to sit here on national TV and say that you won an obesity-related lawsuit...
BANZHAF: I said it’s a fat lawsuit, sir.
CAVUTO: You know what, guys? Guys, stop for a second. I know we can go down a long avenue saying whether one’s won a suit or not. What I’m questioning is where this goes further.
Congressman, you’re saying that we are responsible for our own actions. You can’t start suing the organizations, claiming they make us fat when we make us fat, essentially is what you are saying, right?
KELLER: Absolutely. I think we’ve got to get back to the principles of freedom of choice, common sense, and personal responsibility and get away from this culture where everybody plays the victim and tries to blame other people for their problems.
The idea that somehow this legislation isn’t meritorious, as the professor suggested, is flat-out wrong because the Louisiana legislature...
BANZHAF: Why did you change it at the last minute, Congressman?
KELLER: Well, I will tell you. We introduced a bill called the Personal Responsibility of Food Consumption Act. The Louisiana legislature took my language almost verbatim, tinkered around with it a little bit, which I thought was a positive change, and then passed it by a vote of more than 94 percent and signed it into law. I liked their suggestions.
CAVUTO: Well, John, what do you think of that argument? What do you think of the congressman’s argument that, look, we know what we’re doing when we go into a McDonald’s or a Dunkin’ Donuts or a Burger King. We know we’re not going in there to sort of eat light stuff, I mean, for the most part. So we are masters of our own fate, not these guys.
BANZHAF: Two very quick answers.
First of all, those are exactly the same arguments that were raised with the tobacco suits. We’ve now won over $250 billion with regard to those.
Secondly, as Judge Sweet said in his opinion, many people don’t know what they’re getting, many people are misled. The example he cited is that many people think that you’re getting less fat in the chicken bur -- in the McNuggets than you are in the beef. That’s absolutely wrong. That’s why that suit is still going on...
CAVUTO: But, John, you will acknowledge that when you go into McDonald’s, for the most part, you’re not going there to eat healthy, right?
BANZHAF: Well, why don’t you let a jury decide that? Why is Congress stepping in…
CAVUTO: Why do we have to have a jury decide it?
BANZHAF: ... and telling every state that they cannot allow their own processes to decide these cases. Traditionally, what happened is courts decide cases.
CAVUTO: All right.
BANZHAF: Only where they screw up royally does Congress step in and do something. Here Congress is stepping in beforehand.
CAVUTO: OK. Guys, I wish had more time. You were both great. I definitely want to see you both back. It’s a hot issue right now, and you’ve whet our appetite.
BANZHAF: We’re winning.
CAVUTO: What do you think of that pun?
All right. John Banzhaf and Representative Ric Keller.
Thank you very much.
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