Talking Points: Just Don't Call It . . . Well, You Know

By Al Kamen
Friday, May 1, 2009

President Obama insists on calling the swine flu by its scientific designation, H1N1. Government officials, led by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, are going all out to tell us that pork products are safe to eat -- unless, of course, you are in a plane, train or any other confined location, which is, according to Vice President Biden, quite unsafe.

In that same spirit, House Agriculture Committee communications director April Slayton sent an e-mail late Wednesday to all "Democratic press secretaries."

"If I could make a request, please avoid using a pig in any graphics for the current flu outbreak that you are creating for your website and other media," she wrote, noting that the current flu outbreak is most properly called "H1N1 flu." The moniker swine flu "suggests that people are getting sick through consumption of pork products, which is not correct." She attached Vilsack's statement.

"If you could please try to refrain from using 'swine flu' to refer to the outbreak (and please no pig graphics), this would be extremely helpful as the U.S. tries to maintain international trade and consumer confidence in our nation's swine industry," Slayton urged.

Good luck with that.


Speaking of "pig graphics," we got an invitation to a fundraiser being held last Monday just as the swine flu pandemic was gathering steam in the media. It was from the reelection committee for Rep. David Price (D-N.C.) and urged everyone to "come PIG OUT with him at an "Old Fashioned North Carolina BBQ lunch."

The invitation -- sent before the dimensions of the pandemic had become known -- noted, of course, that Price was one of the "Cardinals" on the House Appropriations Committee. Cost was only $2,000 per PAC and $1,000 for individuals.

The pig theme seemed slightly odd phrasing, we thought, prompting thoughts of "pork barrel" and images of hogs gruntin' and snufflin' at the taxpayer trough.

If you missed the pigout, not to worry. We got an invitation to support Sen. John Cornyn's political action committee at a reception Tuesday. The Texas Republican is inviting us to a "Cinco De Mayo Celebration" and fundraiser to raise money for his "Alamo PAC."

No pig references, thank goodness, but this one also seemed odd. Mexicans celebrate Cinco de Mayo to commemorate Mexico's victory over the French at Puebla in 1862. We also recall the Alamo more as the rallying cry for Texans who eventually defeated the Mexican army and gained independence, which is kinda anti-Mexican.

Anyway, it's at the National Republican Senatorial Committee, 5:30 to 7 p.m. Only $250 for an individual.


The naming controversy has resonated in the Middle East. Yakov Litzman, Israel's deputy health minister and a member of an ultra-religious party, said this week that "swine flu" should not be used to describe the illness, given Muslim and Jewish bans on eating pork products.

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