Hoda Kotb and Joy Behar - Why You Gotta Be So Mean?
"You, with your words like knives
And swords and weapons that you use against me...
Calling me out when I'm wounded
You, picking on the weaker man...
I walk with my head down
Trying to block you out, 'cause I'll never impress you
I just wanna feel okay again
I bet you got pushed around
Somebody made you cold
But the cycle ends right now
'Cause you can't lead me down that road
And you don't know what you don't know...
Why you gotta be so mean?"
--Taylor Swift, Mean
As we mark Celiac Disease Awareness Month this May, I want to share a story that happened this past Winter.
During February 2022, my 9 year old son Jax was riveted to watching NBC's coverage of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, including every morning on the Today Show before school. Imagine Jax's unpleasant surprise when he discovered this video clip that Gluten Dude had posted online of Hoda Kotb from Today ridiculing people who eat Gluten Free and said being Gluten Free was a "turn off."
Jax asked me why did Hoda have to be so mean!
Given Hoda's platforms and large number of followers, her comments are hurtful on many levels. While Hoda's comments were from May 2013, they still sting today, especially when a 9 year old discovers "an important adult storyteller" making fun of the only treatment for his serious autoimmune disease.
Unfortunately, in the Celiac community, there is a lot of hurt harbored about the Today Show's historical and insensitive coverage of Celiac. For example, as Gluten Dude previously reported, in May 2012, the Today Show called Celiac Disease "trendy" and a "hot disease". In July 2012, the Today Show called the Celiac community "picky eaters". In April 2013, Gluten Dude memorialized another Today Show debacle in his article "The Today Show Misleads, Misinforms & Even Misspells. What a Sad Gluten-Free Mess."
While I would like to think that Hoda did not mean to be malicious here (and that is what I told Jax), I think that she was grossly uninformed, and her comments were still quite damaging.
Would it be OK for a TV host to say peanut allergies were a turn off? Would it be OK to say that cancer is a turn off? Would it be OK to make fun of another physical disability or physical characteristic and say it is a turn off? The answer to each question is clearly no, but for some reason, it was OK to make fun of the only treatment for Celiac Disease. As we say, Celiac is a disease, not a diet!
Or maybe Hoda did mean to ridicule the Celiac community? Following the May 2013 rant by Hoda that Gluten Free is a turn off to her and would not date someone who eats Gluten Free, Gluten Dude and the Celiac community posted their contemporaneous outrage online and on social media, and Hoda issued a backhanded apology "to all the Gluten people". Really?!?!?!
Hoda referred to our marginalized community by calling us "the Gluten people." It is one thing for Scott Hayes, aka Gluten Dude, to brand his platform as Gluten Dude. It is another thing altogether for Hoda to refer to the Celiac community as "the Gluten people." How did NBC let Hoda get away with that? Is there no common sense?
Joy Behar Also Ridiculed The Only Available Treatment for Celiac Disease
Imagine Jax having another unpleasant surprise when he saw another video clip online from MSNBC's Morning Joe with guest Joy Behar ridiculing people who eat Gluten Free as "irritating" and calling Celiac a "bunch of baloney."
In response, Mika Brzezinski's co-host (I could not identify him) replied, "What if they have Celiac?" That was a start, but instead of standing up to Joy and not allowing her to ridicule a Gluten Free diet and in turn Celiac Disease, Mika just ate a sandwich (likely made with Gluten), nodded in agreement, while everyone broke out in seemingly awkward laughter.
While these comments and laughter on Morning Joe were from 2015, they still sting today, especially when a 9 year old discovers "an important news program" making fun of the only treatment for his serious auto-immune disease.
On January 21, 2015, Gluten Dude's wrote a great article, "Joy Behar: An Absolute Gluten-Free Train Wreck." We are so grateful that these comments have been memorialized since bullying and hate needs to be called out over and over until meaningful change happens and it is not OK to make fun of the Celiac community.
Food Allergy Bullies
About one-third of kids with food allergies report that they have been bullied because of their allergies, and we are working to reduce this bullying and meaningfully include children with food allergies in all of life's daily activities that involve food.
There is a powerful and sad cafeteria scene in Taylor Swift's "Mean" video that symbolizes the cruelty that kids can face when bullied over food allergies and intolerances.
In the spirit of "counsel culture", I have reached out on Jax's behalf to Hoda, the Today Show, MSNBC, Morning Joe, Comcast, and Joy Behar asking that they reflect on Jax's feedback that I shared via email, allow Jax the opportunity to educate them on the seriousness of Celiac Disease in the hope that they will consider apologizing, checking their food privilege, and helping Jax tell his Celiac journey on Today and Morning Joe.
Unfortunately, there has been no response from Hoda, the Today Show, Morning Joe, etc. Jax is ready to talk to them (or any other journalists) about Celiac Disease, just like Jax spoke with David Muir on World News Tonight who showed great empathy and understanding of Celiac Disease.
Grateful to Gluten Dude
We gratefully stand on the shoulders of those who have preceded us in our Celiac journey. While painful to go back in time and watch these food shaming bullies Hoda Kotb and Joy Behar, we are thankful that Gluten Dude has been such a passionate Celiac advocate and thought leader in our community for so many years. Without people like Gluten Dude memorializing contemporaneous issues, some Celiac history would be lost. In addition to publishing numerous articles and developing the Gluten Dude App, Hayes also filed a powerful Amicus Brief in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in support of a young boy and his father in a lawsuit against Colonial Williamsburg. The case centered on claims made under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the rights of those with food allergies and intolerances to Gluten to seek reasonable accommodations for their disability that substantially limits one or more major life activities -- in this case eating. This Celiac Disease Awareness Month, we thank Gluten Dude for all of his tireless efforts.