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Give Me a Fake: Stossel Under Fire

Wednesday, August 2, 2000

Give Me a Fake: Stossel Under Fire

John Stossel's Phony Report on Organic Food

After six months of stone-walling, ABC News confirmed an Environmental Working Group (EWG) allegation that the network did not conduct pesticide tests for a special 20/20 investigation by correspondent John Stossel that was harshly critical of organic food. ABC has announced that the producer will be suspended for a month and Stossel 'reprimanded.'

That's not enough! Stossel lied and threatened an entire industry by disseminating false and damaging information. He should be fired for violating the most basic ethical standards of journalism.

EWG has now released fresh video evidence from the Organic Trade Association that Stossel aggressively asserted that organic food "can kill you" despite acknowledging he didn't have the scientific backing to say so. The network investigation is looking into EWG's allegations that Stossel seriously distorted lab research on bacterial contamination during the broadcast.

Since the pesticide test fabrication has been verified, the next phase of the investigation will deal with Stossel's false and reckless claim that the levels of E. coli bacteria found in organic produce were dangerous. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's fact sheet on E. coli, "A positive finding for E. coli does not indicate that the food tested presents a health hazard to consumers." Why? Because most strains of E. coli are benign ... E. coli is not in itself a cause of foodborne disease.

This is Food Safety 101. It is incomprehensible that a network reporter was incapable of such a basic level of research. Stossel's statement that "Shouldn't we do a warning that says this stuff could kill you, and buying organic could kill you?" was in deliberate ignorance and defiance of rudimentary facts about E. coli.

If ethical journalism is alive and well at ABC News, David Westin will fire John Stossel.