ˇ July 24, 2000:
Trial Coverage: Day 6
Second week of trial begins
ˇ July 21, 2000:
Trial Coverage: Day 5
Week one ends with a bang;
Fox seeks mistrial, Judge
ˇ July 20, 2000:
Trial Coverage: Days 3 and 4
ˇ July 18, 2000:
Trial Coverage: Day 2
ˇ July 17, 2000:
Trial Coverage: Day 1
ˇ July 14, 2000:
Justice For Sale In Tampa?
Finally at the courthouse,
litigants can't afford to use
the courtroom facilities
ˇ July 12, 2000:
Fox Loses Key Motion; Jury
Plaintiffs do not have to
prove Fox guilty of violating Communications Act
ˇ July 8, 2000:
Potential Landmine Could
Derail Entire Case
ˇ June 30, 2000:
Judge Steinberg Ready To
Get Case Back On Track
ˇ June 26, 2000:
Judge Says 'No' to Hearing Wilson/Akre v Fox Case
ˇ June 21, 2000:
Judge To Hear Fox/BGH Case While Foxes Dishes More Distortion To WTVT Tampa
ˇ June 16, 2000:
Date Pushed Back Again; New Judge To Be Selected
ˇ June 8, 2000:
Manager Who Fired Akre and Wilson In Tampa Gets Big Promotion
David Boylan Flies Into The Sunset to Manage KTTV, Los Angeles
ˇ June 6, 2000:
Will Start Sooner Than Expected
It will proceed in the heat of the summer, probably in July
ˇ May 25, 2000:
Will Not Start June 12 as Scheduled
ˇ May 18, 2000:
Stalls on Testimony of Its president Mitchell Stern
Pre-trial hearing is otherwise uneventful
Testifies About Broadcasters' Public Interest Requirement
Presidential candidate gives testimony at pre-trial depo
ˇ May 5, 2000:
Court-ordered Mediation Is Brief and
Trial set to begin June 12
ˇ April 28,2000:
Fox Challenges rBGH
Experts At Depositions
Fox lawyers laying ground-
work to tell jurors experts are cancer scaremongers?
ˇ April 26,2000:
Testifies on Behalf of Akre & Wilson
Fox lawyers lodge objections
ˇ October 19:
Fox Lawyers Insist On Secrecy At Deposition
French TV Ejected
ˇ October 18:
FDA Wants Comments on G-M Foods
Public Meetings Start in November
ˇ October 13:
Judge Rules: Trial Will Proceed:
Defense loses third effort to have case dismissed
ˇ September 24:
Gene-modified foods might get labels:
Industry weighs voluntary steps, U.S. studies options as well
ˇ September 20:
Trial Still Set to Start Soon:
Busy Docket Delays foxBGHsuit
ˇ August 4:
Will the fight over gene-altered food products leapfrog across the Atlantic?
ˇ June 30:
UN Health Group Shuns BGH
ˇ June 1:
New York Times:
Farmers’ Right To Sue Grows - Food Warning Muzzle Likely
ˇ May 10:
Corporate Crime Reporter:
Monsanto Officials Join Leading Consumer, Environmental Groups
ˇ May 3:
Fox Deceives Viewers in Primetime,
Net Admits Staging after INSIDE EDITION Report
ˇ April 30:
Democracy Group Award to
Fired Reporters Cited for "Courage in Journalism"
ˇ April 29:
New Trial Date is October
Fox Piles On Big-Name Lawyers
ˇ April 17:
Clinton Lawyer Joins Fox
David Kendall Involvement Confirmed in Letter to Monsanto
ˇ April 16:
Fox Pleads for Another Delay
Later Trial Date to be Set April 29th
ˇ April 1:
Judge Says BGH Case Will
Go To Trial
Opening Gavel Falls May 10th
ˇ February 16:
PENTHOUSE Exposes BGH,
First-rate story of BGH situation and lawsuit against Fox TV
(rated G -- no nudity, just the story)
ˇ January 25:
Summary of BGH Developments
ˇ January 14:
How Fox Wanted to Slant News
of Canadian Concerns
Canadian BGH Concerns Were Big Issue In Firing of Fox Reporters
ˇ January 14:
Canada Says NO to BGH!
Read the CBC Story or
ˇ January 14:
Health Canada Rejects Bovine Growth Hormone in Canada
Government News Release
ˇ December 16:
Akre & Wilson Win Courage
For Work On Story Which Cost Them Their Jobs
ˇ December 15:
ABC NEWS Catches Up on BGH
Read the ABC Story or
ˇ November 7:
FOX Legal (8/28) Answers
to Reporters' Complaint Now Available
ˇ November 1:
and Fox: Partners in Censorship
PR Watch - Showcase Article
ˇ October 30:
Canadians Probe Coverup Claim
Read CBC Story or
ˇ October 24:
Reporters Get Top SPJ Ethics
ˇ October 22:
BGH Issue Explodes in Canada:
Read CBC Story or
ˇ October 7:
SECRET Canadian Study Leaked...
...BGH safety questions unanswered?
ˇ Sept 13:
Akre-Wilson Depos Start
ˇ Sept 10:
SP Times covers NutraSweet flap
ˇ Sept 10:
Our Story: Fox Still Protecting
ˇ Sept 8:
Fox Pulls Plug on NutraSweet
ˇ Sept 1:
Reporters Respond To Defense
story FOX-TV refused to air...
ˇ July 14:
Judge refuses to dismiss
all but one count of reporters' suit
ˇ July 5:
Digger Still Plays Dirty
ˇ July 1:
Depositions Continue, Trial Date
ˇ June 7:
Akre/Wilson Preparing FCC Complaint
ˇ May 26:
Judge rejects Defense motion
for Protective Order
ˇ May 25:
Grazing A Stink
- - -Don't Have a Cow
ˇ May 23:
NEW YORK TIMES:
(Silenced) Reporters... Post Web Site
ˇ May 21:
Wilson/Akre demand on-air correction
ˇ April 29:
FOX-TV asks court:
and Delay depositions
‘I Was Out Of My Mind’
FOX NEWS V-P LAYS CLAIM
TO INSANITY DEFENSE
By JANE AKRE
TAMPA (July 25, 2000)—The defense made another
U-turn today in the Fox/BGH trial today by claiming four new
reasons Steve Wilson and Jane Akre were fired.
“I was looking for people who were chargers, not
drainers,” Fox news V-P Philip Metlin told the jury.
The husband-and-wife reporting team is suing the station for
violation of Florida’s Whistleblower law, claiming they were fired
by Fox for refusing to broadcast false and distorted information
about Monsanto’s artificial bovine growth hormone (rBGH).
When the two were fired,
Fox notified them it was for “no cause” in accordance with a
provision to do so during a window period.
But when Wilson protested, a Fox lawyer wrote although the
two could have been fired for no cause, they were actually
fired because they put up such a fuss in the ethical defense over
the BGH story.
'It Was Insanity'
On the stand Monday, Metlin repeatedly claimed the two were actually
fired for the sole reason that “they walked away from the story”
after they learned of the station’s intent to dismiss them.
Today he changed his own story and said the journalists were
fired because of a lack of productivity, they weren’t “team
players,” and they
wouldn’t come to work frequently
enough during the nearly year-long struggle to get the investigative
reports on the air.
Continuing to represent himself in the courtroom, Wilson
fired question after question at Metlin, chipping away at his claims
during the morning examination.
“Did you ever send a single memo we were not
productive?” Wilson asked.
“Did you ever send a single memo telling us you didn’t
think we were team players?” he continued.
“It’s quite conceivable that I did,” Metlin hedged.
Wilson persisted: “So
where is the evidence? There
is no evidence of that, is there Mr. Metlin.”
“No evidence,” Metlin admitted in a quiet voice.
Wilson was referring to WTVT’s system of “progressive
discipline” shown to jurors earlier in the trial.
It states unruly employees first receive a verbal warning
followed by a written warning before being terminated.
Metlin confessed that none of that had been done.
The reporters’ controversial story which WTVT never aired
focused on the use and human health concerns surrounding BGH which
was approved by the FDA amidst a storm of protest and charges it has
not been adequately tested for long-term human health effects.
Some studies strongly suggest a link to cancer for milk
drinkers in years to come.
The story sparked two angry letters from Monsanto to Fox News
chief Roger Ailes. The biotech giant threatened “dire consequences” if the
story were aired.
Although Metlin has insisted to the jury that the reporters
walked away from the story October 16, 1997, he admitted on the
stand that he received exactly what he asked the reporters to
produce—and it was delivered that very day.
The jury actually saw the scripts that Metlin received, along
with a memo telling him the journalists respected his choice as to
which script to air.
The news director admitted even though he got what he asked
for 48 hours after his request, he said there was such insanity and
madness at the time, he never read either of the scripts or the memo
that accompanied them.
That memo reads, in part: “With all due respect, we are
again informing you that in our professional judgment, the (mandated
script) in this form is biased and distorted to the point it would
significantly mislead the viewers if broadcast. We have thoroughly investigated the BGH issue for nearly a
year now and, simply put, these versions do not faithfully represent
the truth as we know it.”
The memo went on to say how the second script, requested by
Metlin, represented a more honest and accurate story that would not
mislead the public.
The reporters maintain that lawyers for Fox were firmly in
charge of the editing of the BGH story after the Monsanto threat
letters arrived. There
has already been evidence that the president of Fox Television
Stations ordered that the lawyers “take no risks” with the
The basis of the suit is that federal law requires broadcast
stations to operate in the public interest and slanting the news is
not permitted under the law.
“A television station is not the corner hardware store,”
Wilson says. “It is
not just a good idea for broadcasters to serve the public interest,
it’s the law.” Monday,
journalism expert Forrest Carr testified that it is a reporter’s
duty to protest and resist broadcasting a story the journalist
believes is deliberately slanted.
Under intense questioning, Metlin maintained that when the
reporters flagged what they believed were distortions in the story
mandated by Fox lawyers, they “contaminated” the whole process
to the point the story could not be aired. He said it “took away his choice” about
broadcasting either of the stories the reporters submitted.
“Did you keep your promise to read both scripts?” Wilson
asked, referring to the Meltin memo dated October 14.
“ I did not,” the news executive admitted.
“You turned your back on the story.
I think I read the first two paragraphs of your memo and
decided it’s all part of your lawsuit.”
The lawsuit was not filed until six months later.
Metlin maintained that the reporters were simply laying “a
paper trail” in preparation for the lawsuit, instead of making an
honest to report the news.
“Was it all just part of some grand scheme?"
“Well, here we are,” Metlin responded.
“There was a lot of paper flying then.
I don’t know what I was doing.
I was out of my mind!" he said.
Wilson also forced another key admission when Metlin
acknowledged that he never read the reporters’ version of the
script until he was forced to do so at his deposition a year after
the reporters were fired.
“And do you remember your conclusion?” Wilson demanded.
“You concluded ‘they read pretty well to me,’ didn’t
you, Mr. Metlin?”
Metlin’s reply: “That
sounds like something I said.”
Wilson then refreshed his recollection by reading those exact
words from his deposition testimony."
The Insanity Defense
Asked to review a highly critical letter the reporters
received from Fox attorney Carolyn Forrest who accused the reporters
of reckless accusations and sloppy reporting, Meltin claimed he
never saw the letter and never did anything to ascertain whether the
charges had any validity.
“When you arrived at the station and heard these things,
didn’t you not want to know if you really had this kind of
“No,” said Metlin, “I was aware of your reputation, you
came from a national shop, you are what you are."
Metlin also maintained that he intentionally did not even
read the Monsanto theat letters, the reporters responses to them, or
any memos that followed over for months before he arrived.
“I wanted a clean slate,” he claimed.
Wilson then showed Metlin and the jury a Separation Agreement
crafted by Fox lawyers in April and asked, “Isn't it true Fox made
the decision to kill the story before April 17th?”
“That not even possible!" Metlin shot back.
By September 23 when Metlin sat down to lunch with the
reporters at a Tampa restaurant in trendy Hyde Park, Metlin says the
reporters wanted to “start all over” with the story and again
told him the felt the station had acquiesced to Monsanto's muscle.
“Madness and shock is what I felt,” Metlin says.
“I was so much in shock I even got lost going back to the
office from lunch.”
Directed Verdict Coming Soon?
At mid afternoon when jurors were out of the courtroom, Judge
Ralph Steinberg brought up an old and troublesome issue.
“Frankly, I've been doing a lot of reading to see if you
can get past a directed verdict,” he warned.
"Where is the law, rule or regulation the defendant
allegedly violated? A policy
violation is not enough. You
have to prove a lie or distortion is a violation of a law, rule or
gotten away from that entirely.
I don’t want a directed verdict, I want the jury to
He's Been Reading
same issue has been decided by two other judges previously assigned
to the case but it is something that has troubled Judge Steinberg
for some time. He
raised his concerns before the trial began, then backed away for
taking further action, saying it would be improper to rule before he
heard all the plaintiffs’ evidence at trial.
A directed verdict would mean that at the end of the
plaintiffs’ case, the judge would rule as a matter of law that the
case could not continue because the plaintiffs’ failed to produce
evidence that they met the requirements of the law.
Judge Steinberg has repeatedly said he does not want the case
to be about the merits of BGH.
Plaintiffs have contended the jury will not be able to
decide whether or not Fox directed them to lie unless they
understand what was the truth about the science of BGH.
Based on the judge’s impatience with such testimony, Wilson
and Akre have limited science testimony.
Fox contends there is no
law, rule or (FCC) regulation against slanting the news and
therefore the plaintiffs’ case should not go forward.
The defense is expected to make that argument again when the
plaintiffs’ rest their case next week.