Safety Group Accidentally Touches Off Accusations That Michelle Obama Is Killing Pedestrians

First, the Daily Caller‘s headline read: “First Lady’s anti-obesity campaign could be causing more pedestrian deaths.” Then, later, they hedged a little:

“Highway safety spokesperson blames pedestrian deaths on first lady’s obesity campaign.”

This, as you might imagine, piqued our interest. Here’s what happened:

This morning, the Governors Highway Safety Association released a report noting that the number of pedestrian deaths has slightly increased. The group, which looked at the first six months of 2010, made two hypotheses as to why: One, that pedestrians and drivers are more distracted by cell phones and the like; and two, that there are simply more pedestrians these days.

“A focus on liveable communities, or ‘get moving’ health and fitness programs may
increase walking and pedestrian-vehicle conflicts,” the report reads.

The Daily Caller and the Washington Examiner jumped on that part of the report, claiming it was an attack on First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign.

Here’s how the Daily Caller put it:

Pedestrian deaths increased sharply during the first half of 2010, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA). On Wednesday, the Executive Director of the GHSA accused the first lady’s obesity program of causing the deaths by encouraging people to exercise.

And the Examiner:

But the “get moving” movement, led by Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign to eliminate childhood obesity, could be to blame, [the executive director] told The Washington Examiner .

Not so much, though.

“That makes it seems like we’re blaming Michelle Obama’s program,” GHSA executive director Barbara Harsha told TPM. “That’s ridiculous.”

(The Daily Caller has now added Harsha’s objections to the story and added a question mark to the end of its headline.)

“We want people to walk more, and to exercise,” she said. “We just want people to be aware, to pay attention to traffic and traffic signals.”

Harsha also noted that the GHSA has no data to show that more people are walking — it’s just a theory.

The First Lady’s office has not returned requests for comment.

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