By Brian Klose
The recent charges against Subway spokesperson and advertising icon Jared Fogle for sex crimes, including possession of child pornography and allegations of underage sex, and the uncovering of the fraudulent operations of his obesity prevention charity continues the disturbing trend of celebrity scandals that cross the lines of misbehavior.
Fogle, who until recently was considered a symbol of optimism and everyday perseverance, has now been added to the growing list of celebrities, public figures, and athletes who have suddenly, and deservingly, taken a meteoric fall from fame. This list includes Josh Duggar, the star of the recently cancelled “19 Kids and Counting,” who is currently being investigated for instances of sexual abuse that date back to 2002, according to police report released May 2015. Other recent offenders include Bill Cosby, who has been accused of rape and other sexual crimes by over 20 women over the past two years, and Patrick Kane, a star of the Chicago Blackhawks who is currently under investigation for allegations of rape. The list goes on, but these four individuals stand out because they were considered representations of positive ideals. Cosby and Fogle gave voices to ordinary people, Duggar represented a community that valued conservative, traditional views, and Kane was the face of the proud sports community in Chicago.
These figures challenge the value and role of a public figure. Fogle’s situation, specifically, challenges the value of a celebrity-symbol. His abuse of his status brings about the following questions of whether or not a celebrity should use their fame to bring about a big, inspirational change or have an impact on industries outside of entertainment?
Jared is a household name, and his story of overweight college student-turned fast food messiah was an unprecedented goldmine for Subway’s advertising. Since his first ad aired in 2000, Fogle’s net worth exploded to over $15 million, according to a USA Today article, and his character had revolutionized the definition of the ideal spokesperson. Unlike most advertising shticks, however, Jared survived his 15 minutes of fame and has been featured in Subway’s ads as recently as this year.
With this quick success, Fogle also had to take on the responsibilities of a public figure with a message, in his case healthy eating practices. His non-profit foundation, the Jared Foundation, was established in 2007 to fight childhood obesity. On the surface, his foundation aimed to achieve its goal by fundraising and giving grants to programs that also met their objectives. The non-profit was extremely successful with in fundraising but lacked in granting. In fact, according to the same USA Today article, “From 2009 through 2013, the foundation spent just $73,000 a year on average. Sixty percent of the money went to the executive director’s salary, and 26 percent is unaccounted for, according to foundation tax records.”
Fogle’s foundation had the opportunity to spread his message of healthy living and aid other organizations with the same message. Instead, his greed and lack of control caused him to take advantage of those helping him (the fundraisers and donors) and those he claimed the desire to help (young people). He has since plead guilty to all of the charges and will owe nearly $1.5 million to his victims as a part of a plea deal. His actions tarnish the credibility of any celebrity or public figure actually working to help a cause. It’s a shame that Fogle’s inexcusable actions overshadow the actions of those celebrities who do use their fame for good.