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genetic engineering | media criticism

Stossel repeatedly lies to obtain interviews

ABC's John Stossel is in trouble again, this time for orchestrating a set-up of school children for one of his propaganda pieces. Northwest Resistance Against Genetic Engineering was also lied to by Stossel's lackeys in their attempts to obtain footage for the segment.
John Stossel has been in the news lately for setting up a group of kids to bolster his anti-environmentalist, pro-biotech propaganda in "Tampering with Nature", scheduled to run Friday on ABCs 20/20.

Our organization, Northwest Resistance Against Genetic Engineering was also set up by Stossel and his lackeys.

We were supposed to be interviewed by Mark and Dorie (phone number 212.456.6219, if you want to give them a call). They said they were doing a story called "Tampering with Nature" and wanted footage of an anti-genetic engineering action. We invited them to a protest we organized at a Trader Joe's grocery store on April 21, 2001 from 10 AM to noon. A guy named Todd Seavey (phone number 212.456.2039, call him) showed up and said Mark and Dorie couldn't make it. He sounded nervous and claimed that Mark was sick and Dorie was pregnant. This seemed odd to us, as did the "interviews" Mr. Seavey conducted. He walked around and asked people one question, what is the problem with genetically engineered foods, and just scribbled a few words in response. We later learned that he was a producer for Mr. Stossel. There were two camera crews that filmed the protest for about an hour. They got footage of leafletting, our signs and banners, and a dramatic food dump, which involved dropping suspect Trader Joe's products into a biohazard bin.

Just as the protest was winding down at 11:40 AM, John Stossel pulled up in a Lexus. Ironically, our media spokespersons don't watch a lot of TV and didn't know who he was. Stossel immediately gathered the cameras and starting asking questions, at first to RAGE spokespersons, but then to the crowd. He asked his inflammatory questions and soon provoked responses from most people present, including people just walking by on their way into the store. Stossel would direct the camera crews to get footage of the people angrily responding to his accusations that we were "misinforming people". He was very condescending. What was hilarious was that he would try to rebut our years of research on the basis of one article he read. When we asked him to support his claims he could come up with nothing.

Mr. Seavey would occasionally whisper into his ear. It became very clear that Mr. Stossel was trying to provoke people into saying something outrageous, or at least incorrect, so he could make us look uninformed. When someone said something even slightly incorrect or flaky and the cameras missed it, Stossel would ask over and over for the person to repeat it. They never asked for anyone's name.

One of the camera operators as he was leaving said "That's the corporate media for you" in response to our concerns about how the footage would be edited.

For the most part, our responses were extremely articulate and well informed. However, this was not what Stossel was looking for, and we are prepared for the worst when this show is broadcast. With an hour and a half of footage they will only have a few minutes that could make us look bad, so we may not even make it on. We would like to help spread the word that ABC News has to resort to lies for John Stossel to obtain his interviews.

Northwest Resistance Against Genetic Engineering
P.O. Box 15289
Portland, OR 97293

New York Daily News
Wednesday, June 27, 2001

Journalism Isn't Child's Play
Stossel oughta pick on kids his own size

by Eric Mink

The richly deserved humiliation of being forced to apologize on-air to viewers last summer apparently didn't have the desired chastening effect on John Stossel, ABC News' in-house anti-government, anti-regulation hit man.

After apologizing for, essentially, making stuff up in a thrice-broadcast screed against organic food, Stossel now seems to have added the manipulation of little kids to his bag of dirty tricks.

A fresh exhibition of Stossel's sneering scorn is scheduled for Friday night in a special titled "Tampering With Nature." Its targets are environmental concerns, including global warming and genetic engineering. Its theme: What's the big deal?

As part of their "research" for the show, Stossel and his fellow travelers at ABC arranged interviews in April with second-, third- and fourth-graders at the Canyon Charter School in Santa Monica, Calif.

According to an angry letter signed by seven of the kids' parents and sent to Stossel on Monday, the interviews weren't interviews at all. Instead, they charge, it was a session where Stossel asked and re-asked questions until he got material he could edit in such a way as to support his position that schools are force-feeding kids false and frightening information about environmental dangers.

Although it would have been reasonable to expect few of the parents to know who John Stossel was, the parents say his ABC accomplices took no chances and told no one that Stossel would be doing the, ahem, "interviewing."

I wonder: Do you think when Diane Sawyer is scheduled to interview a bunch of thirdgraders, her producers keep it a secret until she walks into the room?

Then again, Stossel and company were headed into what they may have regarded as the belly of the beast: Santa Monica, an oceanside suburb of L.A. favored by wealthy TV and movie creative types, or, as they're sometimes referred to in Stossel's conservative circles, squishy-headed liberals.

Late yesterday, after a puzzlingly intense internal debate, ABC News executives suffered an attack of wisdom and decided to yank the school kids' comments out of the show. Officially, the network reiterated its position that the interviews were conducted "according to the highest journalistic standards" and noted again that the parents had signed permission slips for their kids to participate.

But maybe some of those executives' ABC/Disney Mickey Mouse ears perked up when one of the parents raised the issue of "informed consent" in an interview with the Los Angeles Times and how you can't get informed consent from people who haven't been informed that their kids are being used to score somebody else's ideological points.

Maybe, too, the executives were paying attention three weeks ago when a National Academy of Sciences panel completed a fast-track review, ordered by President Bush, of the existing science on global warming. Their conclusion: There's no scientific doubt that the global climate is warming, and there's no scientific doubt that human activity is responsible.

Kind of sucks the air out of the argument that kids are being brainwashed about the environment by leftist wackos.

The problem here isn't that Stossel investigates an issue, gathers facts, comes to a conclusion and then presents his opinions in an on-air report. The problem is that he and his colleagues start with an ideological position and then find or, in the case of the unconscionable organic-food reports, invent material to support it.

The real question is when the real journalists at ABC News will get fed up enough to demand an end to this circus.

E-mail:  eminktv@yahoo.com

homepage: homepage: http://www.nwrage.org
phone: phone: 503.239.6841