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