EWG Press Release

For Immediate Release: 
Wednesday, September 6, 2000

August 12, 2000

Washington, Aug. 12 - The watchdog group that forced ABC News to admit it had fabricated laboratory tests for a story attacking organic food has called correspondent John's Stossel's on-air apology "an insult to the ABC News audience, the organic food industry, and to organic food consumers everywhere."

Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, said Stossel's "apology", broadcast in the last 5 minutes of the Friday, August 11 edition of 20/20, "utterly fails to correct the reckless and false statements ABC News has repeatedly made, with no basis in fact, about the safety of organic food."

"Stossel badly damaged the credibility of ABC News with his statement, particularly by failing to retract his orginal warning, based on a bogus food safety test, that organic food "could kill you"," Cook said. "That is an extreme statement ABC News knows the facts cannot support. Yet in Stossel's "apology" he still insinuated their tests showed a food safety problem with organic food. That is a lie, and ABC News must be made answerable for it."

Cook also criticized the substance and timing of the Stossel "apology."

"At ABC News, organic food that "could kill you" in the regular season is proclaimed "safe" at eleven o'clock on a Friday night during August re-runs," Cook said. "That is an utterly spineless way for ABC News to make amends after having twice condemned an entire industry, once during prime time, with an unsubstantiated claim that the food it produces is lethal. "

On Wednesday, ABC News said Stossel received a reprimand for reporting a nonexistent pesticide study on the air. A producer reportedly was suspended for 30 days without pay. ABC News refused to describe the nature of the Stossel reprimand.

But throughout the 20/20 program on Friday night, Stossel was awarded co-anchor duty for the program alongside Connie Chung.

"What kind of ethical compass is guiding ABC News these days? How can a reporter who has been "reprimanded" be allowed, in the same week, to sit in the anchor chair Hugh Downs once occupied or substitute for Barbara Walter?" Cook remarked.

"What's next? Leonardo DiCaprio interviewing the President for ABC News?" Cook asked.

The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit watchdog group in Washington. Its extensive postings on the Stossel controversy can be found at www.ewg.org.

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