July 21st, 2010

John Stossel, Hypocrisy Again

The slap the led John Stossel to hire a personal injury attorney and recover a reported $400K

John Stossel is at it again, trashing lawyers. Why? Two reasons:

1. When lawyers shoot back we sound like lawyers. Thus, easy fodder.

2. He makes good money doing it. How? Well, the Fortune 500 companies and conservative “think tanks” have tons of conventions, conferences and trade shows. And speakers are nice to have and can get paid well for it.

Could he be anti-lawyer on the merits? Funny joke, I know, but some will ask anyway. No, he actually confessed in a moment of candor that, while he was a consumer advocate in the past, he makes a lot more dough running around trying to get immunity for corporations. He said once:

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.”

In his most recent attack (July 7th, Parasitic Tort Lawyers), he makes this claim, that kids have suffered because playgrounds are safer:

Even when the lawyers do help their clients, they hurt everyone else because fear of their lawsuits takes away many good things: Swimming pools, playgrounds and gymnastics programs close because liability insurance is so expensive. Kids lose their favorite places to hang out in the summer.

Now when I was a kid, there was concrete or asphalt under the monkey bars.  Kids got hurt. It was dangerous. Lawsuits were brought because there were easy, reasonable fixes. Now you see wood chips or mats. We do not have fewer playgrounds today, though we do have fewer serious injuries. And I see plenty of public pools and school gymnastic programs. Stossel is utterly full of it. According to Stossel, safe playgrounds are a bad thing. Up is down. Black is white. And all hail his Orwellian Doublespeak.

And then there is this:

Look at health care. The lawyers claim they punish bad doctors and win compensation for injured patients, and their suits add “less than 2 percent to the cost.”

This is deliberately misleading. The costs are actually less than one percent. Nice job, Johnny boy. And it’s very rare for suits to be brought against doctors to “punish,” they are brought for compensation. Maybe you’d like to pay higher taxes so the public can pay the compensation? No? I didn’t think so. Why not just give the tortfeasors immunity and screw the injured folks? Great public policy that would be, huh?

Let’s have some more Stossel fun. He lets loose with this about doctors and hospitals:

They do surgery on people who may not need it. That’s safer for the doctor, although it’s not safer for the patients.

Stossel may not have noticed it, but the medical profession has a financial interest in doing more surgeries. It isn’t a secret that they get paid more to cut than not to cut, and that doctors have the biggest paydays in America.

The funniest part was his closing, where he tries to attack John Edwards for bringing cases regarding brain damaged infants, and accuses him of self-interest:

“I’m a trial lawyer,” he said. “They turned the word trial lawyer into a four-letter word, and I’m telling you I’m the people’s warrior, and I am proud to be an American trial lawyer.”

And the money is good.

Hee, hee. That was funny. He tries to skewer Edwards because he was a financial success when the reason he himself switched over to corporate defender was because “I also now make so much money I just lost interest in saving a buck on a can of peas.” As a noted TV personality would say, “Give me a break.”

I noted his hypocrisy earlier this year (including his own personal injury lawsuit for getting slapped a couple times by a wrestler, for which he reportedly collected over $400K) in a post entitled John Stossel — You Gotta Love Him.

And so, after yet another attack piece on “parasitic” lawyers, Stossel was filleted by various bloggers. I bring you, without further ado, a few more of those criticisms:

John Stossel – The Wrestler (Jon Lewis)

How Do You Solve a Problem Like John Stossel? (The Pop Tort)

Stossel Calls Lawyers Parasites (Tort Burger – Hold the Reform)

Dear John Stossel: The 7th Amendment & Trial Lawyers Probably Saved Your Life (The 7th Amendment Advocate Blog) – added 8/4/10


February 3rd, 2010

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