L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca

L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca is being criticized for pitching a dietary supplement from YOR Health, which contributed $1,000 to his campaign. (Los Angeles Times / October 1, 2013)

Sheriff Lee Baca, his spokesman says, wouldn't have been so enthusiastic about the nutritional supplements he was pitching if he'd known the promotional video would be seen by the public. That backward mea culpa is just as poorly thought out as the Los Angeles County sheriff's unseemly use of his public office to promote a company's product.

As reported by ABC7, Baca participated in a 31/2-minute video for a dietary supplement company called Yor Health, which is based in Irvine. "Hi, I'm Lee Baca and I'm the sheriff of Los Angeles County and I'm going to live to be 100 years old and beyond!" Baca says in the video, adding: "The advice I give my friends who are trying to take full control of their health is to take the Yor Health products, sustain their daily nutritional needs and operate on less than 2,500 calories a day."

It doesn't help that the company itself has been the target of multiple complaints to the Federal Trade Commission that it is running a pyramid scheme. But even if Baca were pitching a universally admired product, his ad-man appearance would be an embarrassment to his office and the county. We'd say it's an embarrassment to Baca himself, especially considering that he received a campaign donation and travel money from Yor Health, though he was not paid for the video appearances. But it's unclear at this point exactly what it would take for the sheriff — with his poor management of the jails and the continual allegations of special treatment for his friends and donors — to feel shame.

After the news report on ABC7, Baca severed ties with Yor Health, which has taken the promotional video off YouTube. His spokesman told The Times that Baca believed the video would be used only for in-house consumption and added that Baca still buys the product because he loves it.

Our objection was not to Baca's taste in supplements, running shoes or anything else. It was his poor judgment, as a highly visible public servant, in touting a commercial product. He doesn't appear to have broken any laws, because he wasn't paid for his endorsement, but maybe it's time to reconsider some of the rules on what is expected of public officials.

Was Baca somehow thinking that Antonio Villaraigosa's recently announced gig with Herbalife had given a new gloss to pitching for supplement companies with questionable reputations? At least the former mayor was no longer in office when he took the job. If Baca would like to not run again in order to pitch vitamins and minerals, he certainly won't get an argument from us.