John Stossel

"Take cigarette smoking. Yeah, they kill smokers. But there is no good data showing secondhand smoke kills people."
Biography: 

John Stossel is a former broadcast TV news host and current host for Internet videos privately financed through a nonprofit called the Center for Independent Thought (CIT).

John Stossel began as a host of ABC’s 20/20 in 1981, where he curated a reputation as a paternalistic skeptic of various problems facing society. Stossel’s “Give Me a Break” segments on ABC featured criticisms of government regulations, taxation of wealthy individuals, and challenges faced by economically impoverished people.

John Stossel partnered with ABC News to launch “Stossel in the Classroom,” which was taken over in 2006 by the Center for Independent Thought (CIT). The CIT continues to host Stossel in the Classroom videos on its website.

John Stossel left ABC in 2009 to work for Fox Business Network, where he generally advocated for unrestrained capitalism, scrutinized social programs and regulations that reduced private sector profitability, and promoted his interpretations of individual freedom. Some of Stossel’s colleagues at ABC were upset at Stossel because, “...what he was doing wasn’t based on fact; it was based on opinion.”

In a 2012 interview, Stossel said that he “hated it” at ABC, and had to beg for a job at Fox Business. In 2009, ABC ran a report about Michael Jackson’s death instead of his segment about the dangers of government-run health care systems. To Stossel, this incident illustrated his tension with ABC. Stossel later claimed in a 2016 interview:

“They were no longer interested in airing my libertarian stories...My boss said ‘Ah, you’re just predictably libertarian. No one is interested in that’”

At the Fox Business Network, John Stossel hosted a series called “Green Tyranny," running segments like, “Environmentalists collude with the EPA to block economic progress.”

 

In December 2016, John Stossel left Fox to focus on “new media” programs similar to his work at ABC and Fox, where he would have more editorial control. "Stossel TV” launched on YouTube in 2017, via the Center for Independent Thought.

John Stossel took up a role at the Charles Koch Institute, as a contributor to Koch’s journalism fellowship program. Stossel also began working with Reason TV’s “Stossel on Reason,” a YouTube video project of the Reason Foundation. The Reason Foundation’s trustees at the time included the late David Koch, and it has received over $4.6 million from Koch family foundations since 1986. 

 

Through CIT’s Stossel TV and the Reason Foundation’s Reason TV, John Stossel continues producing regular content on YouTube for a Libertarian audience.

Evidence: 

Debunked Climate Denial Arguments Featured in John Stossel’s YouTube Videos:

“It’s not hurting anyone, it won’t hurt anyone”

1996 - At a speech during a “Junk Science & The Courts” conference by the Manhattan Institute, Stossel falsely claimed toxic waste dumps and pesticides don’t hurt anyone.

2006 - In an interview with climate change deniers John R. Christy and Sallie Baliunas, Stossel claims that “The Fundamentalist doom-mongers ignore scientists who say the effects of global warming may be benign.” 

  • This statement attempts to paint a small handful of scientists, often supported by fossil fuel interests and very often wielding arguments already debunked by other scientists, as equal to the vast majority of scientists studying climate change. There is clear consensus among scientists publishing research that the effects of global warming are serious, widespread, Peer-reviewed economic studies strongly indicate that ignoring climate change is significantly more costly than efforts to mitigate it. Studies that reviewed the body of scientific literature on climate change found that 97-98% of published climate research is inconsistent with the arguments made by climate change deniers.

2017 - In an article published by Reason, of the Koch-funded Reason Foundation, Stossel made an unsubstantiated assertion that climate change did not make hurricanes Irma or Harvey worse. Many scientific organizations and agencies have published research on the subject, most notably the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2018 special report, amassing evidence that climate change increases the chance of stronger hurricanes. Just like with Hurricane Sandy in 2012, global warming creates conditions favorable to  “Frankenstorms” by causing higher sea levels, which led to more storm surges and flooding. Warmer sea surface temperatures and more moisture in the atmosphere are climate-influenced factors that contribute to stronger, more energetic hurricanes.

2019 - In a Stossel TV segment titled, “Are We Doomed?,” John Stossel moderated a Heartland Institute “debate” that only featured longtime climate change deniers Patrick Michaels, a discredited and fossil fuel industry-funded climate change-downplaying scientist, making a variety of unsubstantiated assertions. Michaels’ arguments fly in the face of research conducted by dozens of independent scientists, including in a 2018 IPCC report, which estimated that a half-degree increase in global average surface temperatures could lead to hundreds of millions of people susceptible to climate-related risks, including from flooding, food scarcity, super storms, deadly heat, and widespread disease. In contrast, Michaels said that a 1 degree increase helped our planet and our life expectancies, so the belief that another half degree is going to do damage is “absurd”

“It’s not happening like they say it is”

2001 - In a one hour special on ABC called Tampering with Nature. Stossel portrayed environmentalists as “preachers of doom and gloom.” Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) documented a number of inaccurate claims from the ABC special. Contrary to EPA data at the time, showing recent increased emissions of a variety of pollutants and greenhouse gases, Stossel claimed every major pollutant the government measures is decreasing. Stossel also falsely claimed that electricity prices would rise from 20 to 86 percent by 2010 if the Kyoto Protocol was ratified, which was not consistent with predictions published by the Energy Information Administration at the time - nor did it turn out to be true, according to EIA data.

2006 - In an op-ed for RealClearPolitics, Stossel cited an Exxon-funded project by Sallie Baliunas accusing climate scientists of being involved in an unfounded conspiracy motivated by government funding.

2007 - ABC News published an opinion column by Stossel titled, “The Global Warming Myth.” In it, Stossel claimed that it’s “presumptuous” to think human impact is large in comparison to earth’s geologic history. Anthropogenic activity is causing abrupt global warming events like today, which can be highly destructive. Over the course of Earth's history, such climatic events have caused multiple mass extinctions. Without evidence, Stossel says that bigger disruptions in climate (like more intense storms and floods) will “probably not” happen. Scientific research conducted in 2007, and more studies published since then, show that storms are increasing in strength.

2009 - Stossel in the Classroom featured a segment telling students there is still debate “about whether or not human activity is the cause” of climate change and even claims global warming is caused by the sun, which we know is false. The episode featured John Christy, Tim Ball, and Roy Spencer, all individuals with ties to organizations that have received money from fossil fuel interests.

2014 - In a Fox Business TV segment, Stossel interviewed Jay Lehr, who went to prison for falsifying time sheets while on contract with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Lehr accused the EPA of publishing false estimates of pollution that would impact public health. Lehr is the longtime “science director” of The Heartland Institute.

2019 - In a post on his website, John Stossel parrots discredited conspiracy theories, claiming that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) allows governments to maintain control over people, using harm from atmospheric carbon dioxide emissions as the excuse. In truth, the IPCC is a collection of thousands of scientists who have collaborated since 1988 to “provide governments at all levels with scientific information that they can use to develop climate policies.” As the climate change fact-checking website Skeptical Science notes, the IPCC “formed to report on a broad range of scientific enquiries into the climate, and our effects on it, and to summarise the science for lay people,” and it has actually understated the human and economic costs of rampant industrial carbon dioxide pollution. In the same post, Stossel quotes the discredited, fossil fuel industry-funded climatologist Patrick Michaels, to assert there is no relationship between hurricane activity and surface temperature of the planet.

“Global warming might be helpful”

2015 - In a Fox Business “Green Tyranny” segment, involving interviews with discredited scientists Patrick Michaels, Judith Curry, and fossil fuel consultant Alex Epstein, Stossel repeats the discredited assertion that temperature increases might be good for the planet because “cold waves kill many more people than heat waves.” In reality, economists estimate that the costs of ignoring climate change outweigh the costs of mitigation by trillions of dollars. Scientists have long warned about a range of deadly consequences from global warming, beyond deceptively framing it as a comparison between cold spells and deadly heat waves.

2019 - In an article on his website, Stossel repeated the myth that carbon dioxide is great for plants, helping them grow, as if plants in a controlled greenhouse setting can be broadly applied to the entire climate of planet earth. In reality, the bulk of independent scientific research has shown that an increase in carbon dioxide concentration would lead to numerous other dangerous effects and massive costs to society, including the increased need for fertilizer and a reduction of photosynthesis in certain plants. Stossel's post credits three scientists with ties to the fossil fuel industries, Willie Soon, David Legates, and Patrick Michaels.

“We can’t do anything about it”

2017 - In a “Green Tyranny” Fox Business segment, Stossel says we can’t do anything about climate change now because “we don’t have the science yet.” Stossel conspicuously avoided informing viewers of any of a number of high-profile events involving climate change science at the national and international levels, including:

  • in 1988, Congress got a high-profile warning from NASA climatologist James Hansen, who unequivocally warned the United States government and public that global warming was already happening, due primarily to unnatural pollution from human industrial activity, and that it posed a wide variety of threats to humanity. 

  • The U.S. has participated in global climate negotiations dating back to the 1992 Rio Earth Summit under president George H.W. Bush

  • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has published authoritative reports, using research published by thousands of scientists worldwide, since 1990. 

  • Investigations first published in 2015 by InsideClimate News, the Los Angeles Times, and Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism showed how ExxonMobil’s own scientists were studying and affirming climate change starting in the 1970’s

  • Numerous scientific studies, media reports, and other popular publications detailing even simple actions that governments, companies, and individuals can take to mitigate climate change.

“We will overcome or adapt”

2019 - In an interview with Pat Michaels about humans being reactive, rather than proactive, Michaels argues humans will naturally adapt to the consequences. Multiple scientific studies and institutions have compared the vast costs of delay and adaptation, as opposed to lower costs in scenarios where proactive mitigation is attempted. Michaels has acknowledged support from coal and oil companies. He worked for most of his career at the Cato Institute, which was founded by Koch Industries CEO Charles Koch, and remains governed by executives and alumni of Koch Industries. Michaels recently moved from the Koch-funded Cato Institute to the Koch-funded CO2 Coalition.