In an April 3 guest commentary for the conservative New Hampshire Union Leader, ABC News 20/20 co-anchor John Stossel returned to promoting author Michael Crichton's assertion in his book State of Fear (Harper Collins, 2004) that global warming is “just another foolish media-hyped scare.” Stossel stated that "[m]any climate scientists agree with" Crichton and that reporters “often listen to alarmists and don't take the trouble to survey the scientists who really know.” Stossel failed to note, however, that the vast majority of scientists recognize global warming as a genuine phenomenon with potentially serious consequences for human life. Stossel also echoed Crichton's claim that "[e]nvironmental organizations are fomenting false fears in order to promote agendas and raise money," but he neglected to mention that many global-warming skeptics receive generous funding from industry lobbyists to downplay the problem.
As Media Matters for America has previously documented, studies by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1996 and 2001, and a 2001 National Academy of Sciences report, commissioned by the Bush administration, have recognized global climate change. The Pew Center on Global Climate Change and the Union of Concerned Scientists both also note a “strong consensus” among climate researchers that global warming is a scientific reality.
Stossel stated that Crichton “points out that the even the scientists who study global warming have an incentive to exaggerate the problem. If you say, 'there isn't a big problem,' you're less likely to get grant money.” But he neglected to note that many global warming skeptics receive generous funding from energy interests with a direct financial interest in downplaying the problem. Former Washington Post and Boston Globe reporter and editor Ross Gelbspan documented the phenomenon of dubious industry-funded scientists in his 1998 book, The Heat Is On: The Climate Crisis, The Cover-up, The Prescription (Perseus Books Group, 1998).
This wasn't the first time Stossel has offered a misleading presentation of global warming. The Washington Post reported on June 26, 2001, that parents of children that Stossel interviewed for a piece called “Tampering With Nature” accused him of manipulating his subjects to support his contention that the children had been brainwashed by environmentalists.
“The questions were all entirely misleading to evoke the responses he wanted,” [Brad] Neal [father of one of the children] says. “He'd repeat questions until he got the answer he wanted. ... We knew we were hoodwinked.” ... Neal says Stossel was obviously trying to get the 10 assembled students, who ranged in age from 8 to 17, to say they found the prospect of global warming “scary.” He said Stossel told them, " 'There are no scientists who think global warming is not occurring, right?' ... The kids didn't know any better. This guy was disgusting. ... When my kids get used, I'm going to fight."
“Tampering With Nature” also included several other inaccuracies, including misrepresenting the loss of American forest habitat and the cost of reducing greenhouse emissions, according to the progressive media watchdog Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting.
Media Matters has also noted Stossel's attacks on vice presidential candidate John Edwards' career as a trial lawyer, citing data he claimed was from a government study but was actually produced by a private group with a political agenda. And ABC was forced to correct a broadcast in which Stossel misreported research findings on organic food.
His own journalistic offenses notwithstanding, Stossel has been a severe critic of bias in society and in the media. He made his view of the media abundantly clear by the title of his 2004 book Give Me a Break : How I Exposed Hucksters, Cheats, and Scam Artists and Became the Scourge of the Liberal Media....