John Stossel, You Gotta Love Him


Now I know what you’re thinking with this headline: “John Stossel? You love the guy? He is always whining about trial lawyers, how can you love him?”

No, really, I do. Because for a writer, hypocrites like Stossel are like manna from heaven. This story is inspired by a little fluff interview with New York Magazine earlier today where this question and answer appeared:

Who is your mortal enemy?
Smug, ignorant, and arrogant Upper West Side Lefties and personal-injury lawyers

Awww, isn’t that cute. Johnny-boy wants to kill me and all the other personal injury attorneys in the country. We’re his “mortal enemy.”

The guy must have been sued big time and got clobbered to have that type of hissy fit. Oh wait. It was the other way around.

That’s why Stossel is so much fun to write about. You see, he was the plaintiff in a lawsuit after professional wrestler Dave Schultz slapped him twice. But he didn’t just sue the wrestler that smacked him down, but the World Wrestling Federation as well. The case reportedly settled for $400,000. Here is the video of the two slaps (with an out take above):
So what happened to change his mind? Usually, I refer to tort “reformers” as people who have never been seriously injured by the negligence of another. The hypocrites suddenly see the light when they become injured.

So here’s my list of theories on why Stossel flipped backward after being compensated for his injury:

1. He wasn’t seriously injured, but claimed that he was, and therefore assumes others that make claims are just like him;

2. He hated his own attorney, and therefore assumes others are just like him or her;

3. He realized that beating up on lawyers is super easy to do because when we defend ourselves we sound like, well, lawyers;

4. If you shill for big business, you get lots of speaking fees for conventions.

5. Since the time of that incident, he’s been sued or threatened with suit a number of times and isn’t too keen on being on the other side. From a profile on Stossel comes these revealing incidents that tend to support the “I hate being on the other side” theory:

Accuracy isn’t one of Stossel’s strong suits. He’s admitted to making a number of serious mistakes in the past, he’s been sued in connection with his reporting, and the “research” he’s used to prop up his arguments has been routinely debunked by leading academics. In 2000, for example, Stossel declared that organic produce was worse for you than conventional fruits and vegetables; it turned out his report had been based on faulty research and he was forced to issue a public apology. When he argued that global warming was a myth, no less than 104 Nobel Prize winners took him to task. (For his part, Stossel said he was relying on another group of “unnamed” scientists.) More recently, he had to issue a correction and an apology to the evangelical pastor of an African-American church after he distorted his words.

Stossel is — and this is fun to add — not just a hypocrite on tort “reform” but on his avowed libertarian philosophy. He has stated that “Free markets, not coercive governments, are the consumer’s best friend. The people who are really ripping us off are the lawyers, the politicians, and the regulators.” Yet, when it comes to litigation, he wants Big Government to come riding to the rescue to protect him.

From a 2004 Washington Monthly story by Stephanie Mencimer comes this:

In April 2002, Stossel hosted a fundraiser in south Texas for Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, a corporate front group that was helping doctors seeking caps on malpractice lawsuit damages.

Ahh yes, Big Government coming in to protect negligent doctors. That is just what anti-government libertarianism is all about. Way to go Johnny-boy.

And now, after digging around a bit, I come to The Admission as to why he actually flipped. From the same Washington Monthly piece comes this whopper:

While he doesn’t include it in the book, Stossel did once offer the real explanation. In what was perhaps a moment of candor back in 1996, when he was giving a speech to the conservative legal group, the Federalist Society, someone asked Stossel why he had abandoned consumer reporting to bash government and trial lawyers. According to the Corporate Crime Reporter, Stossel replied, “I got sick of it. I also now make so much money I just lost interest in saving a buck on a can of peas.”

If he ever decides to give up his career as a pseudo-journalist, he would make a perfect spokesman for the US Chamber of Commerce, which has, ahem, started its own frivolous lawsuit.

As a famous reporter has been heard to say, Hey, give me a break.

Follow-up: John Stossel, Hypocrisy Again

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8 Responses Leave a comment

  • Clay 2011.5.10 at 23:14 | Quote

    I’m pretty sure you’re wrong. John Stossel used to be a die-hard liberal who only did consumer reporting. He was pro-lawyer and pro-regulation. He changed later to speaking against lawyers, unions, and government. He writes multiple times in his books.
    Furthermore, he has beef with lawyers like ambulance chasers and those who sue any company or person over any slight offense because they do more bad than good with their fees.
    This particular case was obvious assault. He may not have been seriously injured, but as far as I know, he never bashes suing over assault.
    Get your facts straight. Get over it. Get over yourself.

  • Eric Turkewitz 2011.5.11 at 11:34 | Quote

    Furthermore, he has beef with lawyers like ambulance chasers and those who sue any company or person over any slight offense because they do more bad than good with their fees.

    No, he admitted that he switched sides due to pure self-interest. As he said in the Washington Monthly article, his switch came because:

    “I got sick of it. I also now make so much money I just lost interest in saving a buck on a can of peas.”

    You might also enjoy reading the follow-up for Mr. Hypocrisy:

    http://www.newyorkpersonalinjuryattorneyblog.com/2010/07/john-stossel-hypocrisy-again.html

  • Chris Miller 2011.12.18 at 21:25 | Quote

    As a free-market libertarian, Stossel often offends me with his simplistic arguments, scanty research and sloppy journalism, as well as accepting any one-sided argument as gospel.

    And as a person who’s studied law, he likewise offends me– as do all knee-jerk right-wingers who belch “tort-reform– with his obviously-unresearched claims about “frivelous lawsuits,” when anyone who’s even sat on a jury for a personal-injury suit can tell you the steps required to calculate actual damages– which are no less than those for insurance-companies. Why doesn’t Stossel bash those? Oh right, they’re “free market…” unless he’s on a rant about “crony-capitalism,” which he conveniently forgets when he blasts about the “free market” another week.
    Likewise, the law requires lawyers to make reasonable inquiry into a case to establish its validity; and even if there was none, the case would be thrown out in summary procedure. This leads me to conclude that Stossel hasn’t made the SLIGHTEST inquiry of his own into the matter, but would rather pander to popular misconceptions about the legal system—and legal developments that seem counterintuitive to laymen– as easy targets on how “government is the problem.”
    Even when that’s true, it’s scarcely a good idea to disempower the individual by removing recourses

    But we’re talking about someone whose claim to fame is walking up to a pro wrestler and asking if pro wrestling was fake; so that’s a measure of his pseudo-intellect, when a simple phone-call and an inquiry for fraud would have done the job.

    Stossel is above all things, a troublemaker posing as a libertarian in order to pander to the yellow press with popular simplistic finger-pointing and blame… and his whiny voice and continually quizzical eyebrows is the final “finger in the eye” of annoyance.

  • Chris Miller 2011.12.18 at 21:33 | Quote

    Originally Posted By Clay
    Furthermore, he has beef with lawyers like ambulance chasers and those who sue any company or person over any slight offense because they do more bad than good with their fees.
    This particular case was obvious assault. He may not have been seriously injured, but as far as I know, he never bashes suing over assault.

    Of COURSE he doesn’t– that’s DIFFERENT because it happened to HIM!
    It’s when something happens to someone ELSE that it’s “frivelous” and requires “tort reform!”

    The law already requires lawyers to make reasonable inquiry into a case, in order to establish its validity before filing; and even if there was none, the case would be thrown out in summary procedure, while lawyers would face sanctions, fines and other black marks.

    Stossel simply eitherhasn’t made any inquiry of his own into the matter– or he simply doesn’t CARE, since he’d rather spread misinformation and half-truths in order to present simple solutions to complex problems.

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