ABC’s Stossel Lashes Out at Critics Who Want to Silence Him

ABC’s John Stossel lashed out on Wednesday’s O’Reilly Factor on FNC at the “totalitarian left” which wants to “silence critics” and persuaded some parents to insist interviews with their kids be pulled from Stossel’s Friday night special which dares to question the environmental left’s orthodoxy.

On Thursday’s Good Morning America he offered a milder rebuke about how he’s “upset that activists got to these parents and frightened them about me.” On the June 28 GMA Charles Gibson asked him: “This special has touched off some controversy. Some people came forward and objected to interviews that had been done with their children, two months after the interviews had been done, and asked that the interviews be removed and they have been taken out. Every TV writer in the country seems to have weighed in on this. Your comment on it.”

Stossel: “Well, I'm upset that activists got to these parents and frightened them about me. I'm upset that we had to take this out and we've put something in that I think is interesting, but I can understand why ABC felt that they had to because these are children and who are we to go against the wishes of the parents?”

In Thursday’s Washington Post, Howard Kurtz relayed Stossel’s comments on FNC’s The O’Reilly Factor the night before. An excerpt from Kurtz’s June 28 story:

ABC's John Stossel hit back at his detractors yesterday, accusing environmental activists of having “brainwashed” a group of California parents into insisting that the network pull his interview with their grade-school children.

Responding to his critics at the Washington-based Environmental Working Group, Stossel said on Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor: “I call them the totalitarian left. They want to silence people who criticize them.”

Ken Cook, the group's president, dismissed Stossel's comments as “preposterous,” saying: “If anyone's trying to limit debate it's John Stossel, by suggesting commie lefties are behind this as some sort of plot….He's a bully and he's finally been challenged.”

The heated words followed ABC News's decision to yank the footage of Stossel interviewing 10 children about environmental issues after the parents, who had contacted Cook's group, withdrew their consent. The parents say they were never told that Stossel was involved in the program, which airs Friday, and that he pushed the students to give the kind of responses he wanted.

Stossel said he is “not happy” about ABC's decision to withdraw the footage but that “I see their point. These are children….If parents don't want their kids on, who are we to force them?”

But Stossel contended that the parents had been “thrilled” and changed their mind only after “environmental educators talked to them. I don't blame them for being scared after what these people probably said about me….People said, 'He's going to distort. He lies. In the past, he's faked things.' They make up stories about me and the parents get scared.”…

On the footage that ABC has withdrawn, the children say yes when Stossel asks whether they thought America is more polluted and the air and water dirtier than they used to be — which, as Stossel noted, is untrue.

Stossel then says on the tape: “What sad distortions to feed children.”

In the O'Reilly interview, Stossel accused the school system of brainwashing students and, in another swipe at environmentalists, assailed “the extremists who dominate the debate.” Environmental activists, said Stossel, “shouldn't be scaring people the way they are.”

Last week, noted media commentator L. Brent Bozell issued this statement in a press release:

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Media Research Center President Brent Bozell blasted the Environmental Working Group for shamelessly manipulating parents of young children to attack ABC News correspondent John Stossel over his special on how scare tactics are used to perpetuate a one-sided view of environmental issues.

“John Stossel has a point of view that is vastly under-represented on networks like ABC, and his reporting is factual and honest. That's why the Left can't stand him, and will stoop to anything to get him off the air. These parents were in the room when their kids were interviewed. They saw John Stossel interview them. They said nothing for two months. If they really had concerns they could have raised them then and there with ABC, but they’ve instead been manipulated by this left-wing group in search of an anti-Stossel publicity splash just as his report is about to air,” Bozell said.

“ABC is right to be sensitive to parents’ concerns, but when parents can be so easily manipulated as part of a witch hunt to knock an honest journalist off the air, it sends a dangerous signal to all reporters who would dare question the Left’s agenda — on the environment or any other issue,” Bozell said.

“Mr. Stossel’s premise is absolutely true as our own exhaustive research has found: information on environmental issues like global warming are presented in almost a totally one-sided fashion. As a parent myself I find it insulting and appalling that both adults and children are consistently bombarded with advocacy journalism that misleads and misinforms the very public to which the media are responsible,” Bozell said.

(This report courtesy of Media Research Center.)

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