nutritionist enlists senatorial support as monster threatens legal action

Dr Deb reacts to Monster Energy legal threat: 'Let's air your dirty laundry in public'

By Ben BOUCKLEY contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Law

Senator Richard Blumenthal (left) yesterday took to Twitter to denounce Monster's 'intimidation' of Dr Deborah Kennedy (right)
Senator Richard Blumenthal (left) yesterday took to Twitter to denounce Monster's 'intimidation' of Dr Deborah Kennedy (right)
Senator Richard Blumenthal has denounced Monster on Twitter for threatening kids’ nutritionist ‘Dr Deb’ with legal action, following ‘false and defamatory’ statements on energy drinks made in a newsletter aimed at children aged 6-10 and their parents.

Monster’s March 4 cease-and-desist letter follows the line taken recently by the firm's CEO Rodney Sacks’, of fiercely facing down attacks on his firm and the energy drinks category, and was prompted by an e-newsletter sent by Dr Debbie Kennedy.

Connecticut resident Kennedy (visible in the Twitter picture, left, with Sen. Blumenthal, who is holding a can of Monster Energy) is CEO of the website Build Healthy Kids, and sends out the monthly newsletter that she claims reaches around 120,000 children nationwide.

In her March 2013 issue, Kennedy warned subscribers that energy drinks can be dangerous, and tells kids to “NEVER DRINK energy drinks: They can harm you”​ (alongside a cartoon skull ‘n’ crossbones and a generic energy drink can).

Monster alleges ‘false and defamatory statements’

Monster is not named and neither adults nor are told teenagers to avoid them, but Kennedy does state that children had died from drinking energy drinks, a claim that Monster fiercely disputes.

This prompted a letter from Monster’s lawyers Solomon Ward, insisting that Build Healthy Kids had “published, and worse, republished, false and defamatory statements that by clear implication identify and defame Monster”.

Such statements were disparaging and defamatory, and had undoubtedly materially damaged Monster and its well-known brand, the letter added.

“Monster demands…that Build Healthy Kids within five days of the date of this letter retract its defamatory statements, correct them with an accurate statement published with equal prominence.”

‘Reserves right to pursue all legal remedies’

Failure to correct the statements, the lawyers write, could subject Build Healthy Kids, “to general and exemplary damages, in addition to special damages. Monster reserves its right to pursue all legal remedies”.

Blumenthal, an exponent of tougher regulations on energy drinks, replied with a letter to Rodney Sacks on March 12, and also posted the Twitter picture yesterday (right) that shows him standing alongside Kennedy at a press conference on the issue.

Describing her initial response to reading the Solomon Ward letter, Kennedy told reporters: “You [Monster] want to air your dirty laundry in public? Then let’s do it!’

“Joining Dr Deb to denounce @MonsterEnergy’s intimidation, threats and problematic marketing tactics,” ​Blumenthal’s Tweet accompanying the image​ reads.

Senatorial ‘alarm’ at Monster’s tone

Writing to Sacks, Blumenthal says: “We are alarmed by both the tone of your letter, and by the importance that Monster seems to place on its brand reputation among elementary school children.”

Blumenthal says that he and co-signatories, Senator Richard Durbin and Congressman Edward Markey, wanted to understand the “motivation”​ for Monster’s letter, given past communications from the firm stating that it did not target Build Healthy Kids’ demographic.

“In light of this, it is unclear why Build Healthy Kids would be singled out by Monster as defamatory, especially since your company was never named in the March newsletter,” ​he wrote.

Demanding that Monster apologize to Kennedy, the Blumenthal also asks that the firm reply within 14 business days stating (1) why it felt unfairly targeted by Build Healthy Kids​, and (2) whether it had sent similar letters to school officials, pediatricians or physicians.

According to NHRegister.com, Monster replied to Blumenthal Tuesday stating that it did not intend to threaten Kennedy, but was concerned by incorrect statements it saw as harmful to the company.

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