Victor Neufeld, 20/20's executive producer, whose wife is a PR agent whohas represented the nuclear, chemical and plastics industries, has continued to steer the show away from environmental stories.
In an Extra! expose (1-2/94), 20/20 staffers and ex-staffers told of Neufeld squelching stories critical of the nuclear industry and putting a spin on environmental stories that minimized or denied environmental concerns.
ABC reacted to the Extra! article by "circling the wagons" around the 20/20 program chief, a 20/20 source said. As for Neufeld's posture on environmental stories, "It's the same thing--and worse."
Indeed, Neufeld, along with John Stossel, the correspondent who has done most of the 20/20 pieces denying environmental concerns, expanded beyond20/20 on April 20 with a 90-minute ABC network special, called "Are We Scaring Ourselves to Death?" Neufeld was the program's executive producer, Stossel its host.
Two of the three producers hired to work on the program resigned because their findings did not conform to the Neufeld/Stossel view of what the special was to claim, according to a source close to ABC. Jan Legnitto was assigned to develop the portion of the show on product safety and found government regulation to be cost-effective. Vicky Sufian investigated comparative risk,and the data she collected indicated that regulations served to protect people.When the facts they came up with clashed with the "preconceived notion" for the program, their research was dismissed. And they asked to be released from their contracts and left the program.
Dealing mostly with the environment, the show gave Neufeld and Stossel the opportunity to amplify on the dismissals of environmental problems Stossel specialized in as 20/20's "consumer reporter."
"Scientists say many of our fears about chemicals are ridiculous, that just because scientists now can find microscopic quantities of poison doesn't mean that those tiny doses hurt people," declared Stossel on "Are We Scaring Ourselves to Death?"
As to government regulation: "Economists say regulation makes a country a little poorer," Stossel claimed. "