Episode 72: John Stossel — Libertarian Billionaires’ Inside Man

Citations Needed | April 10, 2019 | Transcript

Citations Needed
43 min readApr 10, 2019


Intro: This is Citations Needed with Nima Shirazi and Adam Johnson.

Nima Shirazi: Welcome to Citations Needed a podcast on the media, power, PR and the history of bullshit. I am Nima Shirazi.

Adam Johnson: I’m Adam Johnson.

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Nima: Though he is mostly now a fixture on Fox News and Fox Business as well as fringe right-wing media, in his heyday libertarian pundit John Stossel was a major staple of mainstream media. He had a weekly segment on ABC’s 20/20 as well as a number of hour long specials on that network as well as a widely distributed “educational” video series produced for tens of thousands of American high school classrooms.

Adam: Stossel’s influence really can’t be overstated. In his peak libertarian phase at 20/20 on ABC from the early 1990s to 2009 when he eventually left for Fox News, the program was frequently a top 20 show with an average of 13 million viewers an episode. During his “Give me a Break” segments and his many high profile special reports, Stossel — without challenge or balance — spread dozens of well worn libertarian scare stories on topics ranging from teachers’ unions to the EPA to tort to anti-tobacco regulations to minimum wage to black civil rights activists, nut-picking the most fringe elements, building stories on anecdotal and often fraudulent data and repeatedly building case using a black hole libertarian sourcing.

Nima: These reports were later repackaged, bought up by libertarian billionaire-funded front groups and distributed free of charge to a reported 140,000 classrooms throughout the United States. They offered up supposed lessons in “economics” providing supplemental “learning materials” and study guides to overworked, underpaid teachers who saw the credible ABC News logo on the covers of these things and assumed that they were then legitimate educational material taken straight from news.

Adam: So why are we talking about someone who was popular 20 years ago? Today we’re going to argue that much of the neoliberal, far-right toxic media can be traced to Stossel’s brand of libertarian “contrarianism” that made major headway in the 1990s, a time when, even more so than today, dumping on the poor, college kids, people of color, big government and environmental regulations was seen as “edgy” and “politically incorrect”. For years, under the ostensibly neutral and respected brand of ABC News, John Stossel and his billionaire-funders led this effort, rotting the brains of thousands of young, impressional children.

Nima: We will be joined later today by media critic professor and lecturer Jeff Cohen, founder of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, founding director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College and co-founder of the digital activism group, Roots Action. He’s also the author of the 2006 book Cable News Confidential: My Misadventures in Corporate Media.

[Begin Clip]

Jeff Cohen: But the reality is that when John Stossel parades himself as anti-PC and going against the grain because he’s a corporatist. Corporatism was and is the reigning ideology of mainstream media and he held himself out. ‘I’m cutting against the grain. I’m saying greed is good. I am playing clips of Gordon Gecko from the Wall Street movie saying, greed is good and I’m going to spend an hour proving he’s right.’

[End Clip]

Nima: From 1981 to 2009 John Stossel was one of the anchors of the popular news program 20/20, ABC News’ answer to CBS’s 60 Minutes. In the early years of his career, Stossel was more of a consumer reporter and watchdog who earned a reputation as a hard-hitting truth teller independent of corporate interests, corporate interests who frequently pulled ads from the news programs Stossel worked on because of his tough brand of investigative coverage. Though he described himself even then as “kind of a right-winger”, he saw it as his role — the role of the media, mind you, not the government — to take on Big Business.

Adam: He criticized “low-tar cigarettes”, faulty strollers, aspirin, kind of middle of the road bad actors in the marketplace. While there had always been a libertarian streak to his public comments about lawyers, it wasn’t until the early ’90s that Stossel began a radical on-air shift from producing product reviews and consumer reports to sweeping libertarian agitprop.

Nima: Now, this was at a time when media personalities really began to become brands on their own. Right, Adam? So, you know, you saw a real shift from hard news and the anchor personality that was the driver of a lot of these programs into more of the blending of show business and celebrity with news. And so, you know, with that, you kind of saw the Shock-Jock era, as well as the rise of Bill O’Reilly and Chris Matthews. And Stossel was kind of a part of that. I mean, I even remember when he was on 20/20 he would do these investigative reports. There’s a very famous one, Adam’s going to roll his eyes, but I’m gonna say it anyway, a very famous one where he did an alleged exposé of professional wrestling, and it was when he was interviewing David Schultz, Dr. D, Schultz got really upset because Stossel asked him if wrestling was fake, which is not really something you should ask a professional wrestler.

Adam: The guy punched him in the head.

Nima: He got open hand slapped twice, went down each time and then ran away.

Adam: Apparently it effected this hearing for several years, which he later told an interviewer. Please, I’m begging you, I’m begging you when we post the show, do not post that gif. You’re not original. Everyone does it. We’ve seen the gif, we know about it. We did hours of research. Don’t do it.

Nima: You can post the gif.

Adam: I’m going to scold people.

Nima: So that was kind of the Stossel thing. He would do that putting his mic in People’s faces and saying, ‘what is this really all about?’ That kind of rock bottom, that kind of reporting, which was very popular then. But then things really started to shift and he would start doing these segments where there was absolutely no reporting. It was all just ideological agitprop. And so ABC started having to put the subtitle “commentary” under his face when he would be delivering to camera and what you start seeing here with Stossel, and he’s not the only one, but with Stossel is this shift toward what then Fox News soon capitalized on and built an entire culture around, built a world around this idea of commentary and ideological propaganda as somehow being news.

Adam: And when Fox News was beginning in ’94 and ’95 they actually, they launched in ’96 Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes launched in ’96, they engaged in a bidding war with John Stossel with ABC. He was, they were trying to give him his own show. ABC ultimately won. The sort of evergreen question for this show I think is the difference between venality and ideology, which is to say which comes first — the chicken or the egg? — which comes first — all the billionaire donors’ speaking fees and backing or was John Stossel always sort of a true believer libertarian? And Nima, we went back and forth on this. We went back, we went back and forth on this with our researcher, Ethan Corey, and I think that it’s impossible to tell, but I will say there’s a few things to note which we’ll note later about to what extent his radical shift from kind of blase every man libertarian government sucks kind of lazy South Park conservative to someone who really was just reading Cato Institute talking points on a weekly basis. That this shifted in the early nineties in a way that really did begin to dovetail with support and underwriting and subsidizing of right-wing interest and billionaire interest, which we’re going to get into. Before we do, we want it to sort of give you a flavor, like the sort of BuzzFeed headline: only nineties kids will remember John Stossel. Kids these days, if you’re not our age, in your thirties you won’t remember that this was everywhere. And I was in a school in Texas that played John Stossel quote unquote “educational” videos, and I know, Nima, you weren’t because you went to school in New York City where they don’t do that.

Nima: I don’t want to say that no school [in New York does this]. I do not remember having Stossel in the classroom.

Adam: And to be clear, even after he left ABC in 2009, they still continued to make these videos. There’s an organization which we’ll get into later called the Center for Independent Thought, ironically enough independent thought that is funded entirely by Howard Rich, who’s kind of a Koch disciple, fellow billionaire, helped Koch run for president in the ‘80s, they distribute these videos to children. So we’re going to play these clips from these ABC Stossel segments from the ’90s and 2000s and the one thing we want you to keep in mind is that these are repackaged and played in schools.

Nima: Right. So these first ran on ABC and then literally were put onto video cassette tapes, packaged for classrooms for children and then played as part of their educational day. Here’s the first one from a report entitled “Freeloaders”:

[Begin Clip]

John Stossel (voiceover): All over Denver we saw people who said they’d work for food, but at a homeless shelter people told us

Larry: There’s no way you’re going to starve in this town, starting from morning to evening

John Stossel (voiceover): Larry says he and others work what they call “the circuit.” 21 shelters and soup kitchens.

Larry: You got brunches, you’ve got people come around in buses, take you out, feed you. One out there in Aurora what feeds, showers, give you bus tokens to get back in town.

John Stossel: Nobody starves.

Larry: No, nobody. You see somebody with a sign that says “will work for food” he’s scamming you because in this town-

John Stossel: I mean you make it sound like you could develop a weight problem going to these places.

Larry: You shouldn’t go hungry. If you’ve got the IQ of an eggplant, you’ll end up with more food than you’re going to eat.

John Stossel (voiceover): At this shelter people read, drink coffee, play cards, they iron their clothes. Twenty feet away in the shelter there’s an employment office.

John Harpel: Everything in this section right here are the currently available jobs.

John Stossel (voiceover): John Harpel patiently waits for people to ask for jobs.

John Stossel: But, but everywhere I go in America, people are telling me ‘there are no jobs, you got to have all of these skills, a college education.’

John Harpel: Not so.

John Stossel: Have you looked for jobs?

Larry: I’ve had medical problems since ’94 so.

John Stossel (voiceover): Everyone had a reason for not working. But that was a while ago. You could work now.

Larry: When I get off of my rehab? Yeah.

John Stossel: You seem healthy. Why aren’t you working?

Larry: Well no I am. I am working off and on.

John Stossel: Why aren’t you working today?

Larry: Well, to be honest with you, you know, uh, I’m uh, today I’m drinking.

John Stossel (voiceover): Within eyeshot of that shelter is this temporary employment agency. The manager, John Martinez, says he has 75 to 100 jobs a day that he can’t fill. You have plenty of work?

John Martinez: Oh yes we turn work away because nobody wants to work.

John Stossel (voiceover): He says for these people to learn to work, Denver shelters have to stop giving so much without asking anything in return.

John Martinez: You’ve got to give them some responsibility and they’re not taking that.

[End Clip]

Adam: So, couple things about the segment. This is so peak Stossel ‘cause it sorta sounds convincing until you look closer and you realize a couple of things. Number one, they clearly canvased probably dozens if not scores of homeless people. They found a white guy who’s a sort of self loathing homeless guy who may or may not be homeless, he maybe an actor for all I know, but let’s, we’ll assume for the sake of argument he’s actually homeless, and he’s like, ‘yeah, well most people are lazy.’ Of course not appreciating that the vast majority of people who are homeless are women, they have children and they work. The vast majority of people who have housing issues or are poor: work. There’s this great cherry picking. They found this one. They go to this guy who has a job center inside the Saint Francis Homeless Shelter, a guy named John Harpel who he references, who runs this thing called Turnaround. Turnaround is a Christian missionary service that has relationships with local construction millionaires, is probably, I would imagine, I don’t know for a fact, but has a right-wing disposition, has a kind of bootstrap disposition. You know they’re not going to the local left-wing homeless advocacy group. They’re not going to local activists. He is cherry picking people to fit a certain narrative.

Nima: It’s just anecdotal made national. He’s like, ‘Everywhere I go in this country, no one wants to work!’

Adam: Yeah. And there’s zero empiricism to any of this. And that of course goes without saying now as Mark Dowie has documented for The Nation is that they’ve had up to six producers at 20/20 as of 2000 who won’t work with John Stossel.

Nima: Yeah.

Adam: They’ve had two producers walk out while his segments were actually being aired in disgust. There are people who sort of know this is bullshit and even setting aside the ideological differences, which I think are inextricably linked to the sloppy editorial standards, but even setting that aside, there’s nothing remotely scientific or semi-scientific about any of this. It’s just pure agitprop and this is shit that goes on and then shoved down children’s throats.

Nima: One of Stossel’s original producers, this guy, Lowell Bergman, really kind of nailed it when he was interviewed by Mark Dowie in The Nation years ago and talked about what a scam artist Stossel really was and also called what Stossel celebrity meant for news in general. And he said this at the time, this is in 2002 and he said this, “The sad thing about Stossel and his ascendancy is that he is the future. He symbolizes the transformation of news into ideological entertainment.”

Adam: Yeah. Lowell Bergman would later go on to blow the whistle on tobacco. He was portrayed by Al Pacino in the movie The Insider — good movie by the way. I want to go back to this freeloading video, which by the way, if you go to the Student Handbook on ABC’s website and the Center for Independent Thought run by Howard Rich out of his multimillion dollar apartment on 73 Spring Street in Soho, now it’s run out of his multimillion dollar apartment in Philadelphia on Walnut Street, so very credible, the curriculum is actually written by the Koch funded libertarian billionaire funded the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, which you may have seen previously in the Jake Tapper why-we-can’t-afford-healthcare study from the respectable George Mason, which is more or less just become a semi-respectable conduit for when you can’t get stuff published from the Cato Institute they just quote them cause ‘oh George Mason I think I saw them once in the final four, that sounds like a real university.’ But let’s go back to this video. I want to watch this part. This is where John Stossel videotapes and shames homeless people for not being able to mow a lawn. This is really gross stuff. I would even argue it is sort of bordering on kind of incitement to violence against homeless people.

[Begin Clip]

John Stossel (voiceover): I was skeptical. Won’t some of these people who say they’ll work for food really work if you make them a good offer? We found a yard that needed mowing and I set out to offer people $6 an hour plus a hot meal to mow a lawn.

John Stossel: You really need to work? You need food?

Man #1: Yeah.

John Stossel: I have lawn work.

Man #1: Do you? You’re asking right now.

John Stossel (voiceover): I also gave them round trip bus tokens. I offered these people a job too.

John Stossel: Are you the guy who had the sign that he’ll work for food. I have lawn work if you want it.

Man #2: Where at?

John Stossel (voiceover): We made the offer to twelve people who were asking for work. All twelve said they’d come, only this man did.

John Stossel: You’re the only guy who came.

Man #3: That’s cause you gave them a dollars worth of bus tokens. With two dollars of bus tokens you can get a half pint of vodka.

John Stossel (voiceover): The man did the work and we paid him $20. Bob Coté offered him a place in his shelter. But the man declined. Coté says he’s seen him back on the streets drinking.

[End Clip]

Adam: Okay, so a couple of things here.

Nima: ‘I have some lawn work,’ weird man with a camera crew (laughs.)

Adam: Yeah, a weird guy with a camera crew shows up, trolls you in bad faith and that asks you to go to this mysterious location.

Nima: (Laughs.) And you don’t show up because you’re just a lush, Adam.

Adam: Or you’re lazy. And then if it, if you take that example that okay they went to go buy it on vodka, well clearly these people have like addiction and mental health issues. Isn’t the issue not that they’re lazy, but maybe they need help? So none of this is sort of interrogated. This is very typical. And then so there’s a Student Handbook that is sent along with this that’s literally shown to thousands of children and there’s a whole section on freeloading.

Nima: So here’s the conclusion of the study guide that accompanies this Stossel in the Classroom repackaged ABC to now a educational material about freeloading and it’s this:

“Freeloading destroys social bonds and economic growth. In our modern society, we are torn between wanting to help others in need and preventing spongers who abuse our generosity. Some of the unintended consequences of our good intentions have been: increases in out-of wedlock births, a reduced work ethic, and special interest group rent seeking (subsidies and favorable regulation) by the rich, middle class and poor. Since everyone tends to use government to freeload from others, representative democracy degenerates into a competition where everyone tries to use politicians to pick their neighbor’s pockets. Instead of creating wealth, lobbying wastes enormous amounts of scarce resources on influencing government officials and corrupts our moral character. Instead of helping the needy, government programs have become guaranteed work programs for bureaucrats. The paramount social and economic challenge to the survival of free societies is finding the means to help the needy in a way that does not encourage freeloading.”

Adam: And this is, of course, it’s totally neutral economics lessons. No agenda here. I love getting sermons about freeloading from someone who just last year was paid $926,623 from the Koch funded Reason Institute to make YouTube videos about how Venezuela is bad and how Noam Chomsky’s bad. He got paid another $150,000 in speaking fees and made a half a million dollars directly from the Charles Koch Foundation to his production studio JFS productions to make, I don’t know, other sorts of videos or maybe he didn’t work at all. The guy pulls in, I mean at very least, you know probably about $2 million from Koch organizations a year, to work about probably, I don’t know, twenty days a year on these like videos that are not even written and produced by him. And so before we go onto the next video, which is a banger by the way, I want to talk about the economic model here and talk briefly about this question of venality versus ideology. Now, while he was at ABC, John Stossel received tens of thousands of speaking fees from Koch and Howard Rich funded speaking fees from groups like Donors Capital, which is sort of a right-wing, libertarian donor group, which obviously includes the Kochs. That later kind of morphed and worked in parallel with something called The Atlas Network, which you’ll know they pretty much fund every fascist or right-wing organization in Latin America. Lee Fang has done a lot of reporting on that you can read about, we’ll have that in the show notes. The Center for Independent Thought, which is again run out of Howard Rich’s apartment and run by his wife, in the calendar year 2007 they paid ABC, according to their 990 forms, $360,000 for these videos. And John Stossel when he was criticized for basically running the side hustle said to The Nation in 2002 when he wrote a letter to The Nation in protest of Mark Dowie’s article, he said, quote “I earn no income from sales of my videotapes. That goes to ABC.” Which is odd. It was sorta like you’re saying, ‘I don’t make money off this. All that money goes to Citations Needed.’ Well, okay. And so when you factor in the fact that most of the research for this episode is from several reports and you can just read it and know it, it’s basically staffed out to Koch funded and Howard Rich funded organizations like Cato Institute, like George Mason, like reason.com, that basically they do the script writing, they find the stories, they find the scare tactics, they find the anecdotes for Stossel that what you really have is an extremely cheap, heavily subsidized segment on 20/20. You know, John Stossel was probably getting paid quite a bit. So it’s not a ton of money for ABC or for Disney, but it certainly makes it a more attractive investment. Sort of like the way reality TV took off in the ’90s and one of the reasons was it didn’t necessarily get higher ratings, wasn’t necessarily more popular, but it was dirt cheap to make, and John Stossel segments require no reporting. They require no research. You’re not sending people out, you’re not using Disney’s resources. You’re basically having it all packaged and written by these Koch aligned organizations. John Stossel reads it. Then these koch aligned organizations give you half a million dollars, $300,000 to buy these videos, which they give away for free. So they’re not selling the video, so they’re not, they’re not a profit center. It’s effectively just, it’s the same way that the military kind of subsidizes movies. They don’t write them a check, but they say, go ahead and use our F-22 for free or go ahead and use our aircraft carrier for free. But there’s an understanding that there’s a kind of editorial control over that and this operated in a similar way.

Nima: Beyond that, it’s also part of building a brand and spreading an ideology. So the return on investment that they get from not only producing these videos but then putting them into classrooms and having Stossel In The Classroom, which is what the, you know, series is branded as, then burnishes his credentials, burnishes his celebrity, makes it so that he is seen as credible, more attractive to listen to, earns then higher ratings on the TV shows, is considered more professional, more reliable, and it’s a constant kind of feedback loop building up the Stossel brand and pushing Koch brother funded propaganda to children and then again obviously to their parents watching 20/20 and then back to the kids and then back to the parents and again and again and again. And so it’s this constant loop where the benefit is to corporate interests always Stossel’s bank account and to the detriment of our entire society.

Adam: Now, Stossel said he did not keep his speaking fees because his ABC contract prevented him from keeping them. So Stossel said he donated the funds to the Palmer R. Chitester Fund, which then bought these DVDs and then presumably underwrote it to ABC. So in effect he’s collecting speaking fees, giving them to a third party, they use that third party to basically pay ABC, cause this is a revenue center for ABC. Right? The DVDs cost a nickel to make. They’re selling them for who the hell knows how much. But that’s also taking him at his word that he didn’t keep the fees. I mean he may have, I have no way of knowing and this whole thing is so opaque. We obviously don’t know what other kind of interests that Stossel had or his dependents had. But then of course to a large extent he kind of believes this shit. Or maybe he sort of, you know, like he became so rich, he became the ideological donor himself.

Nima: Well, that’s the thing. And so Stossel actually has evoked the hokey old adage, if you’re not a liberal when you’re 25 you have no heart, if you are not a conservative by the time you’re 35 you have no brain. Stossel actually has been quoted as saying basically something totally similar about himself. He once told a former colleague who asked kind of what inspired his, you know, pro-corporate transformation, he said this, “I got a little older. Liked the idea of making real money. So started looking at things a little differently.” So I figured if corporations have the money and I want their money, I’m going to say the good things about corporations!

Adam: So this next video from 2009 is a, which he did on ABC, is a white hot take about why women should not get maternity leave.

[Begin Clip]

John Stossel: A woman at your office is pregnant, she’s going to miss some work and it costs the company money. So is the company free to pay her less or even fire her? Oh wait, I’m not even allowed to say that.

[End Clip]

Adam: Yes. You’re not allowed to say that for obvious reasons. It’s sexist and terrible.

Nima: You’re a jerk.

Adam: You’re a fucking huge prick. Anyway, let’s, let’s keep listening.

[Begin Clip]

Carrie Lukas: (Talking to a baby) Can you be in charge of that one? Just hold it.

John Stossel: It may surprise you that Carrie Lukas doesn’t agree.

Carrie Lukas: If my employer decides they no longer want me as an employee, then it should be their right to fire me. I understand the desire for people to have government step in and try to protect women, but there’s a real cost to government intervention.

John Stossel: These costs are rarely talked about publicly, but it is a fact that once Congress creates some special protected groups, some employers avoid hiring people who fall into those groups. For example, after the Americans with Disabilities Act became law, it was assumed more disabled people would enter the workplace, but that didn’t happen. A study by economists at MIT found employment actually dropped sharply. Likewise, the Pregnancy Act can create problems for women.

Carrie Lukas: Sometimes the laws that are intended to help women like me actually end up hurting women like me. All of a sudden, a potential employer is looking at me and thinking she just might turn around and sue us. That makes it less likely that I’m going to get hired.

John Stossel: Because you’re kind of lawsuit bomb.

Carrie Lukas: Exactly. When you do things like create discrimination laws, you raise the cost of hiring a woman like me.

John Stossel: And while some pregnant women work harder than any man, Lukas says, let’s be honest, most pregnant women impose costs on employers.

Carrie Lukas: A lot of responsibilities are shifted. Each time I go to a doctor’s appointment that means that I’m unavailable to do whatever work needs to be done during that time, which means one of my colleagues is often picking up the slack.

John Stossel: Lukas and her boss made a deal that works for both of them. It’s all voluntary. She works fewer hours and also earns less. Both sides consider that fair.

[End Clip]

Nima: This is real, like, that’s not from MadTV at the time.

Adam: John Stossel references Carrie Lukas’ boss. What he doesn’t mention is that Carrie Lukas’ boss is the Cato Institute and that at the time she headed up the Independent Women’s Forum, which is considered an anti-feminist organization funded by right-wingers like the Brady Foundation, the Koch brothers, Scaife who by the way, both Scaife and Bradley Foundation were huge early donors of Cory Booker when he was running for mayor in Newark because of his stance on charter schools. But that’s a different episode.

Nima: (Laughs.) But so this is a woman who, she’s references as, in the episode when he introduces her, he says, ‘Carrie Lukas is a writer and sometimes appears on TV.’ And I’m like, yeah, oh, she’s a writer. She’s just home blogging and-

Nima: Yeah just some work-a-day lady.

Adam: But she works, she literally worked at the Cato Institute, which is featured heavily in the episode and is clearly, so like this is not even remotely close-

Nima: Like, she’s lobbying against treating women as humans.

Adam: Yeah. There is no organic constituency for not giving women maternity leave, even like the most conservative women mostly think that that’s good. This is sort of a settled issue, but no Stossel is swinging for the fences, right? This is how you sort of move the Overton Window. You take the most radical vulgar position and you phrase it as like, ‘I’m just saying.’

Nima: And the way that he does it, it’s so absurd, right? And so patently transparent. It’s this, ‘hey, I’m just asking questions here.’ You know, ‘I know this, this seems kind of kind of taboo, we’re not really allowed to talk about it, but hey, I’m just, I’m just throwing out the idea that, you know, maybe ladies should stay in the kitchen and fucking start pooping out babies and leave the work to the men, leave the work to the men who can actually get it done on time and not have to burden their poor bosses.’ And it’s like this was actually on television and then pumped into fucking classrooms.

Adam: The segment is called, “You can’t even talk about it.” Well, yeah. You also can’t talk about Holocaust denial because its bad.

Nima: Right, or like eugenics.

Adam: Right. There are things you can’t talk about for a reason. Uh, and by the way, you can talk about it. It’s like half a right-wing radio. It’s not like this is some great taboo. This was in the late 2000s, but this is sort of the quintessence of that like nineties Gen X, Bill Maher, ‘I’m just being edgy by speaking’ like, no, you’re just saying the thing that flatters power. So this next video we wanted to break down is a love letter to Walmart. The Waltons of course, fund a lot of these right-wing institutions, they are donors to Cato. They are donors to reason.com which helped shape this episode. Not big donors, but they are donors nonetheless. Right-wingers love to talk about how great Walmart is because it’s sort of the, the most demonized, most vilified corporation. So this is a video about how Walmart is really great and it’s haters are preventing poor people from buying things.

Nima: And this was a direct response to the release of the documentary produced by Robert Greenwald, Brave New Films, called Walmart: The High Cost of Low Price in 2005 this was Stossel’s fight back against the release of that film.

[Begin Clip]

John Stossel: In every one of Walmart’s thousands of stores, they begin the day with a Walmart cheer. (Cheer) This is supposed to inspire employees and remind them the customer comes first. These workers told us they like working here, but others say they’re victims. That Walmart is exploiting. Some people just hate Walmart. Critics say Walmart wrecks communities, discriminates against women, doesn’t provide enough health benefits and under pays its workers.

Woman: Stop the monster in its tracks.

Movie Trailer: The movie Walmart doesn’t want you to see.

John Stossel: A new movie depicts Walmart as a greedy beast. It’s grabbing everything in its path.

[End Clip]

Adam: This is great. This is typical Stossel. He goes into the Walmart in front of their managers with permission and then goes to select handpicked employees throughout the segment and they’re like, ‘I love working here.’ ‘It’s great.’

Nima: Yeah. Do your pro-work cheer for the camera!

Adam: Yeah, and it’s, this is such scientific sampling of, of sentiment of Walmart workers. Nevermind the dozens of ongoing, probably hundreds of ongoing lawsuits of sexual discrimination, wage theft. ‘No. I went into a store that Walmart’s public relations department told me to go into and I found some squeaky clean worker there who was hand picked by the manager and I’m sure in exchange maybe didn’t have to work on Christmas Day. And he was like, I really like it here. It’s good.’ And that’s the whole segment. And then of course he spends the whole time interviewing people from the Cato Institute talking about how great it is.

Nima: One of the best parts of this segment though is where he interviews customers in Walmart and he’s like, ‘what do you like about the place?’ They’re like, ‘well, the prices are cheap and it’s, it’s just great, I like being able to not pay that much for stuff.’ That’s his proof that Walmart is good because it has cheap stuff and they pay their workers nothing.

Adam: Slavery will give you a cheap products. It doesn’t necessarily, I mean there, there are other moral criteria other than, I mean this is the argument that [Jason] Furman made, who did the original sort of liberal progressive case for Walmart when he was at the Obama Council of Economic Advisors. This was the argument that Mark Perry, American Enterprise Institute, has been making for years. This is the same guy who has written four different times, 2013, 2015, ‘17 and ‘19, I believe, saying we should nominate Walmart for the Nobel Peace Prize, uh, that because they make things cheap that’s like this noble thing without looking at any of the other costs or driving down wages or healthcare benefits. So anyway, this is sort of like Stossel, which is to sort of look like you’re being sort of the Bill Maher, right? Look like you’re being edgy and subversive while coddling and propping up the most powerful people in the country.

Nima: These segments are near endless and I don’t encourage people to go down the Stossel in the Classroom rabbit hole, but if you do, you will see things like “Why does Hollywood hate capitalism” or “Debunking food myths” or you know, “The real story of Thanksgiving,” which notes how quote “the pilgrims were hurt by sharing.”

Adam: Yeah, they were too nice. They were too nice.

Nima: There’s one about “Global Warming Nazis.”

Adam: We don’t have time to get into the weeds of anti-climate change and stuff on the environment or organic food. He was one of the most vocal critics of global warming, the science, the absolute categorical consensus on climate change. Suffice it to say that we could have done an entirely separate episode on that, but wanted to focus on the non-climate related stuff. All this is done and the reason why there’s an episode, if he was some crank on Fox News, we wouldn’t do an episode on it, but all this was packaged with the label of ABC News and pumped into thousands and thousands of schools for teachers and students who sort of didn’t know any better, who sort of thought this was an economics lesson or lesson in proportionality or rationality or reason.com. Right? This is the kind of crap that I saw in school. The kind of crap that I’m sure many of you saw in school. And by way we want to hear about that.

Nima: This is not ancient history either. In 2013, Media Matters noted that Stossel runs annual essay contests in schools and uh, the winners receive all expense paid trips to New York. They appear with Stossel. And so Media Matters noted that the 2012 winners incidentally were both home-schooled students and the winning entry was by a 13 year old kid who quote, “used the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 as an example of harmful government overreach, and in support of her case cited a Heritage Foundation analyst who suggested that as a result of the law employers would simply hire fewer women and minorities — thus hurting both groups.” End quote. So we saw that that’s basically, you know, the same kind of propaganda in the maternity leave segment that we heard earlier. The second place went to a student who wrote an essay that quote, “built its critique of government social spending around the metaphor of a class president candidate promising free candy to the student body. ‘While the students may enjoy the sugar and the candidate may have won the election,’ wrote the 15-year-old author, ‘the candy may give them cavities at the expense of the taxpayer.’”

Adam: If you search Twitter for Stossel in the Classroom, there are schools that will tweet out, they won the Stossel and the Classroom essay contest, which is considered a good thing. So the Albuquerque Public School System tweeted out, I won’t give the name, this was in May of 2015, “[blank] of Eldorado High chosen as a semifinalist for the Stossel in the Classroom essay contest.” With like a picture of her looking like she’s being held hostage by ISIS and so like these are all over the place. Like teachers, school districts, specific schools talking about great they won the Stossel in the Classroom essay contest and it’s like, why? No. What? No, that’s not good.

Nima: Yeah. That basically it just means can you write Koch talking points taken from like a Heritage Foundation press release and then you get the Stossel award, which presumably is like a bronze mustache?

Adam: And Bob Chitester who ran the foundation, who was the brains behind this whole ‘let’s pump a bunch of libertarian propaganda and pump it through children’s veins’ and knowing that school districts won’t give a shit as long as it has George Mason University’s stamp on it. He started a website called izzit.org, which I’m sure many educators listening to this have probably heard about. And if you go, for instant death, go to, izzit.org sort of like what was that fear.com? If you go there you die? Go to i-z-z-i-t.org and there’s a whole section of these glossy videos about how socialism is bad, about how protected classes are bad. And this is Bob Chitester, who is the guy who sort of is the brains behind the original 1977 Milton Friedman PBS series Free to Choose, which was really the beginning of this public effort to make sociopathic libertarian ideology seem like it’s this rational economics thing, right? It’s sort of just science. So for instant death there’s videos and it’s all given free to quote unquote “educators”. So they not only starve education of money, they come in with this cure as it were of ‘oh, we have education materials for you.’ You know, ‘not only we’re going to cut public funding and not only are we going to privatize schools, but here are these videos that are educational’ that are nothing more than just pure propaganda. I mean obviously, but, but go watch these. They’re, they’re pretty amazing. And uh, you will have instant death.

Nima: That’s right. They are The Ring.

Adam: Um, it’s also worth noting that Mr. Libertarian, Mr Anti-government, really reached his peak around the time of 9/11 and the war in Iraq, but never did one single segment on why those things were bad. And in 2013 after the Snowden revelations as well, he wrote an article saying that Libertarians should poopoo the revelations and not really, quote, “worry about NSA spying.” So he, he sort of doesn’t seem to care about when the federal government invades countries and destroys them, and then spies on its own citizens, this is fine, but if they regulate cans of tomato juice, then that’s tierney.

Nima: To discuss more about John Stossel and the on-going grift that he’s been pursuing since the ’80s, we are going to now speak with Jeff Cohen, media critic, professor, lecturer and founder of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting or FAIR. It was also the founding director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College, co-founder of the digital activism group Roots Action and author of the book Cable News Confidential: My Misadventures in Corporate Media. Jeff is going to join us in just a moment. Stay with us.


Nima: We are joined now by media critic, professor and lecturer Jeff Cohen. Jeff, it’s so great to have you on the show today. Thanks so much for joining us.

Jeff Cohen: Wonderful to be with you.

Adam: So this episode is about John Stossel, but it’s also about something more broad, which we’re sort of pinpointing as this trend in the ’90s and 2000s that really presented power serving reactionary opinion as somehow subversive or edgy. Typically this is framed as anti-PC. Much of Stossel’s segments are him saying ‘what I can’t talk about this? Like this is just a truth.’ Specifically railing against what was then known as the liberal media. This cliche has fallen a little bit out of favor but was extremely popular around that time. Before we dive into Stossel as such, can we sort of set the table by discussing his ideological antecedents? Specifically how we got to a place in 1993 and 1994 where this brand of right-wing demagoguery was viewed as some sort of overdo correction?

Jeff Cohen: Well, there had been years of badgering from well-funded right-wing groups about the so-called liberal media and FAIR got so tired of hearing about this and how all the reporters are liberal because they’re pro-abortion and pro-gay rights,that we once did a survey in like the mid ’90s, around this period, a very scientific survey done by academics where they surveyed the Washington press corps and got a big response and what we found was while yes, the reporters as we knew, you know, support gay rights, support the right to choose abortion, that doesn’t exactly make your left-winger. What we found was the Washington press corps was more conservative than the average member of the public on economic issues. On social security, on healthcare, on taxes of the rich, on the power of corporations. So we felt it was sort of eye opening it, it got some coverage in the mainstream media, but the reality is that when John Stossel parades himself as anti-PC and going against the grain because he’s a corporatist. Corporatism was and is the reigning ideology of mainstream media and on those economic issues, he was a little more extreme to the right, but corporatism I would argue for decades has been the reigning ideology. But you’re right, he held himself out ‘I’m cutting against the grain. I’m saying greed is good. I am playing clips of Gordon Gecko from the Wall Street movie saying greed is good and I’m going to spend an hour proving he’s right.’

Nima: Yeah. You know, I’m glad you brought up the economics focus of so much of Stossel’s reporting. His segments routinely featured, if not exclusively featured, the research, the basic kind of overall topics and certainly guests that were more or less handpicked by a network of really right-wing billionaire libertarians that were his major backers. And yet, even though this was not really hidden, it was kind of hidden in plain sight, but Stossel seems to have avoided a lot of the scrutiny that maybe some of his contemporaries like in real time got for pushing this sort of ideology. You know, obviously there were some reports in The Nation, for example, which we referenced earlier in the show, but like generally Stossel was not, I think, regarded as the same kind of idealog as say a Bill O’Reilly. Like what do you think accounts for that?

Jeff Cohen: He was at ABC and O’Reilly was at Fox News. I mean this guy had a special perch. He was doing editorials on air, sometimes an hour long, but he was held out as a correspondent and he was completely protected by ABC management, which says a lot about the ideology of mainstream or corporate centrist news that this guy kept being protected. And the fact that he could do what he was doing on ABC News, I think tells us so much about mainstream TV news from the late ’80s to the late 2000s, you know, the late aughts because that was Stossel’s twenty year reign. And you know, to me a real important inflection point in Stossel his career and in the life of our country is when Newt Gingrich becomes the speaker of the house. It was the wave election of November 1994 and immediately Stossel goes to Washington and there’s this new group in the Congress called the Deregulation Caucus. And Stossel goes there and tells them that regulation in most cases does more harm than good. So he’s briefing members of Congress, that’s not something reporters normally do. And at the same time that he’s doing that, his bosses, his boss Murphy, the head of ABC, has joined Murdoch, uh, from Fox and Ted Turner from CNN and they’re going to meet with the GOP leadership in Congress. No Democrats invited. To talk about their deregulation of media agenda. So here you had a long time reporter, a sort of the fair-haired boy of ABC doing the bidding of the ownership pretty nakedly. And it was around this period that he also spoke before a group, is now deceased, the American Industrial Health Council, now deceased, one of these many front groups. And he tells them that the EPA and the FDA make life less safe. He receives $11,000 in a honorarium and again, imagine if during the ’80s, ’90s or aughts, some reporter is going down to Greenpeace or some left-wing group and pocketing money and endorsing their agenda, he would have been pulled off the air the next day, but Stossel kept being promoted.

Adam: My question is, I feel like around the ’90s, correct me if I’m wrong, because obviously there wasn’t the ubiquity of the Internet, the Internet was sort of just starting a, there wasn’t obviously social media that, I guess I’m curious to what extent this really, which we now know we can look back at old 990 forms or look back at reporting, you know, I know that people, the Greenpeace tried to expose this, but to what extent did these colossal network of billionaire donors sort of catch people off guard or was it more opaque back then? Because I know that much of these relationships could not really have been known in real time. Was it clear the extent to which the show was effectively subsidized by people like Howard Rich and the Koch brothers? Was that not really known until later or was it from your experience were people sort of calling bullshit in real time, but there wasn’t really any kind of accountability mechanism?

Jeff Cohen: Yeah, people were calling it BS in real time. Uh, I mean, FAIR was all over this guy every time he did a segment or a special.

Adam: Right.

Jeff Cohen: Yeah. I mean, you look back, I am proud of various documentation. I mean, one of the biggest exposés FAIR ever did was in late 1993 about the first, pretty much the first six years of Stossel and it coincided with Victor Neufeld being the executive producer of ABC 20/20. And so all of these, uh, producers who’d worked with Stossel, who’d worked under Victor Neufeld at ABC 20/20, the flagship news show of ABC News, they came to FAIR and said, ‘look, we want you to write an article about what’s happening at 20/20.’ And Victor Neufeld every time they would propose an anti-nuclear story or a story about the environment that affected big corporations, Neufeld would just reject them out of hand while Stossel was doing weird stories-

Adam: Yeah very weird.

Jeff Cohen: 1988 “Much ado about nothing,” minimizing the cancer risks of toxic chemicals or my favorite, this is Stossel segment on 20/20 “The town that loves garbage,” which was about the virtue of landfills. But during this period, all these serious producers could not get stories on the environment. And it turned out that Victor Neufeld’s spouse was a leading publicist for the US Council for Energy Awareness, which you know, was the, uh, if you were alive at the time and you saw all of the pro-nuclear ads that they ran. She wasn’t their lead publicist. And while she was their lead publicist, and everyone knew at 20/20 you couldn’t mention a story critical of nuclear power, Victor Neufeld, the executive producer of 20/20, he spoke at a conference of the US Council for Energy Awareness. His spouse was also a leading publicist for the Industry Coalition for the Environment which was chemical oil, plastics companies. And the fellow publicists said about Victor Neufeld’s spouse. Victor’s the executive producer 20/20, the good thing about Lois Neufeld is she would keep tabs on who was planning to do what on TV news and people at 20/20 who were trying to do an environment story would be badgered by phone calls from the wife of their boss. So I mean I believe the John Stossel story and we knew about Stossel’s associations with the Heartland Institute, which you know years later was one of the leading proponents of climate change denial. He was speaking openly at the Cato Institute. So all of this was done in plain sight. That’s the key here that Stossel had this exalted position in mainstream TV news because he can hold himself out as anti-PC. He had this corporatist libertarian ideology that was so well liked by the bosses there.

Adam: Yeah. My posture is sort of incredulous because it seems like FAIR was sort of on it like white on rice and there wasn’t a ton of other pushback. I suppose that was because there wasn’t a lot of, there’s just not a lot of left-wing media watchdog money in general.

Jeff Cohen: Right. That’s for sure.

Adam: One of the things that I find shocking about this whole thing, and I think one of the reasons we’re doing this show is that it wasn’t just indoctrinating people with libertarian agitprop on ABC once a week for, you know, 15 years. It was these videos that were made. Now I personally, and several people have reached out to us as well saying that they had these videos in school.

Nima: Yeah. Stossel in the Classroom.

Adam: The Stossel in the Classroom, sort of economic videos reportedly according to The Fire, 140,000 classrooms have seen these videos. Now in your time as a media critic, one of the things I’m fascinated with is the degree to which like very overt, on-the-nose, libertarian propaganda is presented as quote unquote “economics.” All the Stossel videos are presented as economics lessons. In your lifetime of experience, how much is smuggled in with this word economics?

Jeff Cohen: Yeah, I agree with you. I mean, I grew up, I was in school in the ’50s and ’60s in public schools and all we ever heard about was the virtues of capitalism and the evils of communism. And the virtues of capitalism was quote “free markets.” Every industry is controlled by two, three, four companies. There is no ability to enter. Again, serious economists know all this, but in the schools where everything is simplified and John Stossel is circulating these videos, it is, I think what we’ve been indoctrinated into about economics. So I mean, to me, the protection that this guy has gotten when his facts are so obviously false, and that’s where I give FAIR a lot of credit. I mean, who are this guys enemies? It’s public schools which he calls government schools and he’s a big supporter of private and charter schools.

Adam: Naturally.

Jeff Cohen: Yeah. He attacks unions, he attacks child labor laws, he attacks occupational safety protections, funding to AIDS research, and in almost every area, he makes ridiculous mistakes in his, in his attack on the funding to AIDS research, he claims that at that time more people were dying of Parkinson’s Disease than AIDS. It was just absurdly wrong. In his attack on public schools he gave completely botched figures about graduation levels at Catholic schools compared to public schools. When he’s talking, this is one of my favorite, you know, his special on greed in 1998 for ABC, he says, “factory workers wages are up 70 percent over these years.”

Nima: (Laughs) What?

Adam: That was a Cato guy who said that I’d been looking for, I spent an hour and a half looking for that stat.

Jeff Cohen: Oh yeah. But see, FAIR did a good job of finding the origins of some of these botched stats, but he forgot to allow for inflation. And in fact, between 1983 and 1998 if you allow for inflation factory workers’ wages had gone down six percent.

Adam: Yeah, well that’s this one weird trick.

Jeff Cohen: Yeah, but I mean it’s so obvious and again, when this stuff would be reported, and you do know that when he did what was perhaps his most famous special and FAIR wrote volumes about it, you know, it was called, “Are we scaring ourselves to death?” One hour special in 1994 where he says our fears about chemicals are ridiculous. Regulation makes the country a little poorer. Two out of the three producers that were doing research on Stossel’s special, they resigned in protest because they were finding that, you know, in fact, product safety regulation was cost effective. It didn’t hurt the economy. So again, in my life at FAIR and my life as a media critic, I have never heard more criticism of a reporter’s incompetence from colleagues then I heard about Stossel and yet he kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger. You remember in 1996 and FAIR was on this, and so was a great newsletter called the Corporate Crime Reporter, he spoke, Stossel goes in 1996 to speak to the Federal Society, the conservative lawyers that are always wanting tort reform, in other words, make it harder for workers and consumers to sue big corporations under tort law. And as he goes before the Federalist Society, Stossel says something that was quite honest. He says, quote, “I got sick of it.” Why he’s no longer a consumer reporter. He tells these right-wing lawyers, “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.”

Nima: Ah, yes, champion of the people.

Adam: At least he’s honest.

Jeff Cohen: That was the honest part. And then here’s the utterly corrupt part. He’s talking to these corporate lawyers and he says, “I certainly would encourage any of you who knows somebody who buys advertising on television to say, please buy a couple of ads on those Stossel specials.” Unquote.

Nima: (Laughing.)

Jeff Cohen: So at that point, Corporate Crime Reporter goes to ABC and they said, ‘wait, Stossel is always reporting about tort reform and suits against big corporations by trial lawyers, by consumer lawyers and he’s speaking here to the federalist society, which is on one side of that partisan issue.’ And so they asked ABC, a spokesperson, ‘doesn’t this violate your obvious, you know, your guidelines that bar reporters from speaking before groups on issues that they cover.’ And this is what the Corporate Crime Reporter was told quote, “Stossel is not charged with covering anything in particular. He covers everything.” Unquote.

Adam: Oh wow.

Jeff Cohen: So the rule doesn’t apply to him to speak to a partisan group, a corporate group on one side of a major controversy cause he’s just a generalist. But when you see the laughable protection of Stossel year after year in the alleged corporate liberal media of the ’80s, ’90s and aughts, it totally gives, you know, shows them why that on economic issues, media were anything but right leaning.

Nima: It’s actually, you know, fascinating you bring up this idea of smuggling ideology through, right? Like real indoctrination, and not to use that term lightly, but you know, getting videos directly into classrooms, into schools while also, you know, bearing the logo of a major news corporation I mean that goes a long way. We fairly recently did a whole episode on this guy, Mike Rowe, who has this kind of phony blue collar character that he plays on TV doing like working class jobs and kind of showing how, you know, workers are the lifeblood of this country and they need to be supported except he too is just backed by the Koch brothers. One of his major platforms is this idea of safety third, this anti-regulation anti-putting checks in place to literally protect people’s lives when they’re on the job. And this is just smuggled through as like, ‘hey, he’s the guy that serves up sloppy joes or you know, does like mining work on TV’ and it’s this idea that you know that on say the Discovery Channel or Stossel on ABC, it doesn’t have the Fox News ideological foundation to almost see it as what it is. It’s really sinister because it’s smuggled through as being legitimate and this idea that you could have Stossel doing these clearly, you know, bought and paid for reports and all ABC does is put up a little word that says “commentary.” How much of the Stossel thing has just been carried through to the entertainment as news or news as entertainment media landscape that we see now?

Jeff Cohen: Yeah. Well, I, I mean sometimes they would put up the word “commentary” but most of the time not. Yeah, I think you hit on something at the very beginning of our discussion today, which is this idea of posing as anti-establishment, you know, ‘the establishment believes we should have these laws for consumer safety and product safety and environment but I’m here as an anti-establishment. I’m against the status quo and the establishment thinking. I’m the rebel.’

Nima: Right.

Jeff Cohen: You know, ‘I’m against the elites.’ You know, ‘the rest of the media may tell you product safety is important, but here’s the real deal.’ And so they’re funded by some of the most powerful billionaires and post political billionaires in society while posing as anti-elite.

Nima: Yes. Somehow those billionaires are the rebels in this equation.

Jeff Cohen: Oh yeah. And I’ll tell ya, I mean, one of the big checks on right-wing ideology in recent years within the mainstream media, the only like check on this nonsense is the comedians, the political comedians. And I’ve often thought, I mean we know what Jon Stewart and Colbert and John Oliver have done, you know, maybe in the last 15,16 years around Fox News in making them sort of a joke. But unfortunately Stewart and Colbert and the others didn’t really have their rise when Stossel was at his peak in the late ’80s and all through the ’90s because they would’ve had a field day with Stossel. There would have been a check on Stossel. I’m thinking of, he did this exposé, his “Mr. Stossel goes to Washington” special, you know, in January of 2001 and he was talking about how the airlines, you know, there’s these delays, these airline delays that are caused by regulation. And he says something like this, this a word for word quote, “Look at the sky, even over an airport, there’s lots of room. Why can’t they fly more planes in this empty space?” Unquote. And again, this would be, Colbert and the rest they would’ve had a field day, but back in, you know, January 2001 we didn’t have these political comics whose fodder was right-wing idiocy.

Adam: Right. In fact, I think a lot of comedians at that time Dennis Leary, your Bill Maher, they were part of that same movement to be really edgy by bashing teachers unions. The poor. That was all the rage of those days. Well Jeff, thank you so much for coming on. That was fantastic. There was a ton of history here.

Nima: And as always Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, FAIR, where Adam and I have written for quite some time, is always the one to who have been on this from the beginning. So we can’t thank you enough. Jeff Cohen, media critic, professor, lecturer, author. Thank you so much for joining us today on Citations Needed.

Jeff Cohen: Thank you.


Adam: That was great. We didn’t know a ton of that stuff in our own research. This is, that’s a little bit of wisdom. I imagine that, uh, again, it was like pulling, you’re like pulling your hair out if you’re at FAIR in the ’90s and this guy sort of just flew totally under the radar.

Nima: Yeah, no, FAIR, as usual, you know, had the receipts then, can bring them now.

Adam: And then they just started saying, ‘okay, not only are we making this god awful segment, not only we’re making this awful libertarian segment, we’re going to give it to your children.’ Like ‘not only are we making these guns, we’re going to hand them to children.’

Nima: Right.

Adam: But that’s like the next level evil step you take. ‘This is an economics lesson.’ And if you haven’t, and we’re going to have it in the show notes, you have to read these old Student Handbooks that come with these videos. They’re hilarious. I mean, not to be too glib because I do think it actually did a lot of damage, but they’re like, if you want like a good drinking game, get these Student Handbooks and be like, how many times do they say that poor people deserve to be poor and take a shot and then you’ll be wasted in like five minutes.

Nima: You’ll be wasted by the end of the intro. So that will do it for this Stossel extravaganza episode of Citations Needed. I feel like it kind of goes hand in hand with the Mike Rowe one.

Adam: This is the spiritual successor.

Nima: Yeah. Yeah.

Adam: Same talking points and benefactors.

Nima: Yeah, like a singular idealog that actually speaks to a larger billionaire-backed right-wing movement to really spread ideology in really underhanded ways that make it seem common sense and mainstream and yet it is deeply, deeply cynical, deeply anti-worker, deeply anti-poor people and a, yeah, we see it throughout our media. So taking kind of a micro look at a macro problem. So thank you everyone for joining us. Citations Needed can be found on Twitter @CitationsPod, Facebook Citations Needed and you can become a supporter of the show and our work through Patreon.com/CitationsNeededPodcast with Nima Shirazi and Adam Johnson. And as always, a very special shout out goes to our critic level supporters through Patreon. I am Nima Shirazi.

Adam: I’m Adam Johnson.

Nima: Citations Needed is produced by Florence Barrau-Adams. Production consultant is Josh Kross. Production assistant is Trendel Lightburn. Transcriptions are by Morgan McAslan. Research for this episode by Ethan Corey. The music is by Grandaddy. Thanks everyone for listening. We’ll catch you next time.


This episode of Citations Needed was released on Wednesday, April 10, 2019.

Transcription by Morgan McAslan.



Citations Needed

A podcast on media, power, PR, and the history of bullshit. Hosted by @WideAsleepNima and @adamjohnsonnyc.