During a live webcast for the media this afternoon, Toyota Motors Sales U.S.A. presented in great detail what are serious charges about the “validity, methodology and credibility” of a demonstration of alleged “unintended acceleration” in a Toyota Avalon by Professor David Gilbert of Southern Illinois University in front of Congress and depicted in ABC News broadcasts and on-line segments. (For our previous report: Click Here)
The Toyota charges are reminiscent of similar ones made by Harry Pierce of General Motors against NBC news, after GM learned that NBC news had rigged the burning of a pickup truck with explosives at the height of a controversy over side-saddle gas tanks used in GM vehicles. In that case, the president of NBC news ultimately, after much legal maneuvering, lost his job. The talking head involved is still successfully pursuing similar stories in the same sensational style. GM did, ultimately, recall the pickup trucks for leaky gas tanks.
Whether heads will roll at ABC remains to be seen, but, at a minimum, the network, which has already replaced the false footage it used in its original report on its website, will be forced to respond in detail, if not to ultimately retract its broadcast.
ABC news did not immediately respond to our request for comment. Gilbert declined comment, a new found reticence from one who was previously so publicly vocal.
Instead, ABC is covering this story – with its potentially harmful accusations against ABC on its website – as if ABC is somehow, miraculously, a disinterested bystander in this story. Click here for this disingenuous reply.
ABC is also using other sources, including Sean Kane, who works for product liability lawyers as a foil against Toyota. Kane hired Gilbert to investigate Toyota it was revealed in Congressional testimony.
Make no mistake about it, ABC’s charges against Toyota – how they arose, how Gilbert came in front of ABC’s uncritical cameras and commentary, what fact checking ABC did, how ABC edited the damaging piece, what ABC did or didn’t know when it aired the piece, why its affiliates ran the piece without perspective – is the story here.
This ABC story also calls into question, once again, the “ethics” of broadcast news.People in my view should be mad as hell about it — until more answers are forthcoming. (Don’t hold your breath as the mainstream media will circle the wagons to protect ABC and their own similar practices.)
How Congressional Representatives act, given their long history of unaccountability, and given their comments at Toyota hearings post the Gilbert testimony – also remains to be seen.
Moreover, above all, I continue to be concerned about the owners of the recalled and other vehicles, including virtually every new car from other makers that uses electronic throttle controls, in this manic media environment.
Yes, alas yes, there are some deaths involved; but with NHTSA claiming 6,000 deaths and hundreds of thousands of more injuries from distracted driving alone last year, it’s time for some badly needed perspective. Moreover, it is time for Congress and NHTSA to ban cell phone use of any kind. Now!