Wednesday, June 27, 2001

Tampering With Truth

Another look at John Stossel's journalistic ethics

Was John Stossel once again tampering with truth?

A group of California parents who feel they were misled by ABC News correspondent John Stossel revoked their permission for ABC News to use their children's images or voices in his latest program. The original footage had to be cut at the parents' request.

The eight Los Angeles-area children were interviewed by Stossel on Earth Day, 2001 for his special, Tampering with Nature, which aired Friday, June 29.

In a June 25 letter to Stossel and other ABC News officials, parents of the children interviewed told Stossel that he and his staff obtained permission to interview the children in violation of the Society for Professional Journalists' Code of Ethics (under "Minimize Harm").

The parents said they were not told of Stossel's involvement with the show when ABC got their written permission to allow their children to be interviewed. They also said they were misled about the nature of the show, and would never have granted permission for their children to be interviewed had the nature of the program - or Stossel's involvement - been known to them.

The children were already seated in the studio expecting to be interviewed by the show's producer about their thoughts on environmental issues. At that point, Stossel walked in, sat down and started asking the children leading questions about whether or not they were "scared" by the lessons they were being taught about the environment.

An anonymous whistleblower warned the Environmental Working Group that Stossel was set to "use the footage to trash what kids are now being taught about environmental issues."

Parents and environmental educators brought their concerns to the Environmental Working Group because of EWG's research into Stossel's use of two sets of fabricated test results (see the report "Give Me a Fake," under Related Reports) last year in his discredited report on organic food. Stossel was forced to apologize on the air for reporting non-existent test results.

An expose by USA Today revealed environmental educators are actually under pressure to use propaganda-laced classroom materials from big corporate polluters. (Read more about corporate meddling in the classroom at EWG's Chemical Industry Archives). For more info about enviro education, go to The National Environmental Education & Training Foundation.

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