Palaces For The People
Wednesday, October 29, 2003
Subsequently, ABC announced that Stossel would offer a public apology, live, on 20/20, involving aspects of the program. Stossel did apologize--to his audience, but not to an industry he had badly damaged. "I said our tests found no pesticide residues on either conventional or organic produce," he said. "That was just wrong.... I apologize for the error [and] am deeply sorry I misled you.... All we have in this business is our credibility--your trust that we get it right--I will make every effort to see that it never happens again." In a personal letter to Katherine DiMatteo, Marash did apologize "to organic farmers."
David Fitzpatrick, the producer of the show, was eventually let go by ABC in one of those severances shrouded in mutual secrecy. Fitzpatrick did tell me that he received "a cash settlement," but not before signing "a detailed nondisclosure agreement about the incident." Was Fitzpatrick sacrificed? Many who knew him at ABC and remember the incident think so. Stossel, they believe, was carefully positioned by network executives as an unwitting victim of sloppy reporting by a subordinate. It was easier and less expensive for ABC to buy off and silence a low-six-figure producer than to cancel the contract of a million-dollar superstar.